The cloud has transformed both technology and business in the last decade, but the two are not quite the same. While the cloud has made all kinds of new business practices, and even entire businesses, possible, the technology must never come before the strategic requirements and key drivers of the business.
John McCabe, managing director of Damovo Global Services and Ireland, believes that businesses should think ‘cloud smart’ rather than ‘cloud first’ and indeed is seeing a shift towards this type of approach.
“There is no correct technology strategy; it’s a case of getting your business strategy right, and the technology strategy will follow from that,” he said.
Of course, since the coronavirus pandemic, many organisations have dived headfirst into the online world to ensure their businesses stay afloat. While this was a good move, it should not be mistaken for a long-term plan. More strategic thought is needed to maximise the efficiencies of these technology shifts.
Take the rush to teleconferencing and collaboration, for example.
“Microsoft Teams is now seeing 115 million users daily; in April it was 75 million. Many people are using the basic application, but it’s often not truly integrated with their core business applications or processes which limits the true potential of the technology and impact on the business” said McCabe.
In recent years, others have taken a different approach to internet-centric business by moving more and more systems into the cloud.
This can be the right strategy, said McCabe, but it isn’t necessarily so for everyone.
“People say everything can and should be in the cloud but, in my view, there are legacy applications that are not suited,” he said.
Instead the right approach is to look across the business processes and see where moves can and should be made.
“Some things will stay on-premise. Do they need to? Within five or ten years, I would say no, but at the moment there can be a business case for it.”
When businesses do make the leap to the cloud, they should do it systematically, said McCabe, working with a partner to bring systems into the cloud as and when it makes sense.
“We've got a customer, a large global logistics company that has implemented a complete op-ex model. It started with communications, but we have subsequently worked with them to add a lot more functionality, including automation to streamline processes,” he said.
A move away from capital expenditure towards operating expenditure is generally considered attractive, but the task needs to be taken seriously.
“The key is to have a whole migration strategy planned. You work with the service provider to bring you on the journey. It’s a question of developing the strategy first and then implementing it, ultimately ensuring that everything is connected, regardless of where it is hosted,” he said.
McCabe also said that some issues – notably security and compliance – need to be reconsidered from the ground up when moving to the cloud.
Requirements such as keeping data only within the EU, or indeed only in the US now that America is catching up on compliance legislation, can be fulfilled, but must be clearly specified in the planning stages.
In addition, some businesses do not realise that security is not always included with public cloud services.
“The way you manage your security is different when you move to the cloud. It’s going to be looked after by the service provider as opposed to in-house, and it will differ depending on whether it’s private or public cloud. Plus, it’s more complex than when it was on-premise.
“Many cloud services have evolved to the point that they offer ten times, or even 100 times, more configuration options than on-premise equivalents. Organisations, therefore, need to make sure they have the correct governance, compliance and security measures in place to protect themselves against security breaches and data loss.”