In the last 18 months, businesses have seen the future arrive faster than forecasted. They are being forced to transform at scale and at an unprecedented pace. This is extremely challenging, especially for industries laden with technical debt. But the pressure to act is immense because putting off transformation undermines growth and competitiveness. Most have found a path that has an early payoff—they are hastily migrating workloads to cloud in a bid to scale, bring down costs and put resilience into operations. These businesses need to pause a moment. They must shift their vision from short-term thinking that solves problems for the next 18 to 24 months to program thinking that sets the stage for long-term growth. Now is the time to cement an IT strategy that places building for the future ahead of building it fast.
The wisdom in long-term thinking has always been welcomed by businesses. However, bringing clarity to the ideal end state and devising an approach with measurable business outcomes is daunting. Reason: Modernizing IT has many moving parts that go well beyond acquiring available and pay-as-you-go infrastructure. In a recent round table discussion, that I had the privilege to attend, with highly experienced leaders from global customer organizations and Google Cloud, everyone agreed that it requires prudent planning combined with patience. The planner’s goal should be to deliver value beyond scalable infrastructure and the promise of lowered total cost of ownership (TCO). It should be to boost enterprise agility and set the foundation for new business models contributing to top-line growth.
Targeting these broad-vision goals is not easy. Our conversations with clients using cloud as their stepping stone for transformation shows that their #1 priority is to move services to cloud as quickly as possible. This is good, but the essence of modernization goes deeper. It needs an enterprise to rationalize and modernize applications and networks, review enterprise architecture, address data sovereignty and usability, strengthen security, re-imagine disaster recovery, figure out the right landing zones on cloud, and develop the required foundational capabilities through process re-engineering and talent upskilling. It also means getting all the stakeholders on the same page, showing them what a competitive and growth-oriented future looks like. These are fiddly and complicated moving parts. They often get sidelined in the haste to migrate to cloud. In the long term, the rush to migrate has the effect of only moving technical debt from Point A to Point B with the additional risk of doubling the TCO.
Moving to cloud? Plan for the future.
The rewards of using immaculate planning to pursue these varied components of modernization are significant. The pharmaceutical and healthcare industry provides an easy-to-understand example of this. The traditional leaders in the industry today have giant, sprawling operations that span the globe. The industry is controlled by varied local compliance requirements (HIPAA, GDPR, GxP, etc). The regulations make it impossible to store and process data where it is required. Planning is the key to getting data and workloads in the right place, without sacrificing agility or competitiveness. Done right, industry leaders will be able to counter local healthcare players who are shifting the profit pools to their advantage.
Our experience shows there are five critical parameters that an enterprise must address to become future-ready when investing in cloud:
- Quality and geo-location of data: Most enterprises have underestimated the investments required to make data, which drives product management and operations, usable. Their data is trapped in siloes creating a handicap for leveraging the full power of insights. However, once data is integrated, cleaned up, improved and made usable, it can be classified in order to drive precise industry-specific cloud decisions around workloads and compliance driven geo-locations.
- Lifecycle approach: Organizations that invest time and money in incorporating a lifecycle approach in their cloud strategy hit success sooner rather than later. For example, ops teams are familiar with on-premise requirements, but need to be upskilled on new architectures to manage cloud operations. Planning must also be rooted in business, taking into account the initiatives required for future growth. This means investing in new technology platforms to drive process and product transformation and ways to reduce technical debt by rationalizing applications.
- Ending the era of monoliths: By decomposing monolithic applications, enterprises can reinvent the way their shop floor functions, how their supply chain responds, etc., and quickly build new business capabilities leveraging cloud native abilities.
- Composability: A key element to becoming agile and future-ready is to have all the components such as customer journeys, user stories, domain specific blueprints, cloud native architecture blueprints, policy marketplace, APIs marketplace, etc., in one place. Once these building blocks are available in a `box’, it becomes easy for the organization to create services for evolving customer needs, pandemic-led disruptions, or regulatory changes.
- Focus on curated experiences: Curated and personalized experiences, based on personas and outcomes, for customers and employees have become a firmly-entrenched trend. These experiences can be provided by analyzing hundreds of data points in real time. The data resides in multiple systems and cloud helps bring it together so that it can be analyzed for actionable insights in real time.
These are critical elements for the success of cloud-related strategies. They allow businesses to go beyond the acquisition of scalable and affordable infrastructure. More important, they play a role in building the foundation for tomorrow’s IT organizations with the potential to deliver business value.