Do not ask which cloud; Instead ask what the cloud can do for you.
When it comes to digital transformation, McKinsey says that “to capture the real value from cloud, companies need to focus their investments and build a cloud-ready operating model”. Most CIOs indeed have a ‘cloud plan’. But a plan without a defined outcome is likely to get bogged down in the question of ‘what cloud should we go for?’ A better approach is to start by asking what you want your business to achieve, then asking how the cloud can get you there. A cloud plan should be outcomes-driven, not ‘which-cloud’ driven.
Why Cloud Matters
Looking back at market research, we can see that IT choice is not as important as it used to be. Today’s differentiators are all about the value something adds to customer and employee engagement. The cloud only matters because customers and employees want to consume their experience online. This can be illustrated by considering some well-known companies such as Uber, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and PayPal (to name just a few). You know these are all cloud players but before that comes to mind, you’ll more likely think: Netflix lets me stream TV from any device, PayPal lets me buy stuff online easily and Uber gets me a cab instantly. For these companies (and for us), the cloud is already assumed – what matters more is the valuable service the cloud enables these companies to deliver. They chose to be cloud businesses because of the outcomes this enabled them to achieve, and the rest of us should do the same.
The best starting point is asking what will give you the benefits you seek for your particular business. If those benefits can be found via the cloud, then you also get the benefit of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, which means minimal investment and only having to pay for what’s used. Other drivers towards the cloud include business agility, business continuity, and rapid access to capabilities and innovation, which will get you faster to market.
Shifting to Cloud
Business was heading steadily in this direction anyway, but the world changed in 2020 and soon cloud will be the norm, rather than a trend. According to IDC, the rising desire by companies to mitigate future disruptions by being more flexible, agile, and resilient could make 2021 “The Year of Multicloud.” COVID-19 has accelerated the pre-existing shift towards the cloud but with physical buildings closed and more uncertainty than before, staying connected to customers is more vital than ever.
Underpinning all this are employees – do they have what they need to remain productive? Are they happy to be telecommuting and how does the potential isolation affect them?
With all this in mind, let’s return to the question of what the cloud can do for you and your desired business outcomes. Right now, it can solve some of the challenges brought by the pandemic by helping to improve the customer experience and providing flexibility and safety for employees. But post-COVID, customers are going to want the same level of satisfaction, and customer experience leaders are, rightly, going to demand they get it. At the same time, the business must continue to achieve revenue and profit expectations whilst remaining compliant. Managers, supervisors, and agents will continue to feel the pressure of increased workloads, more complex enquires, limited interaction options, and more.
Now and into the future, the priority must be to improve the customer experience. According to Forrester, the top two actions cited for achieving this are improving online customer experiences and increasing the frequency of customer engagement – the question ‘which cloud?’ doesn’t feature.
So, let’s assume some kind of cloud, which leads to two important new questions: “Can I migrate at my own pace to minimize disruption?”, and, “Will the cloud I’ll be using be an open system so that I can pick only the elements I need for my desired business outcomes?”.
With those points in mind, you can turn the question ‘which cloud?’ into ‘which bits of the cloud do I need to drive success?’