What You Need to Build a Cloud Strategy for the Digital Workplace
While it may sound daunting, especially if starting from scratch, creating a cloud strategy shouldn't be complicated. According to Gartner's cloud computing industry analyst, Marco Meinardi, who spoke at a recent conference in Las Vegas, the strategy should fit into a 20-page document — at most.
In his view, a key point of a successful strategy is that business, not technology, should drive decision-making.
“The business strategy should drive the cloud strategy and provide guidance to those who will implement it," he wrote in a press release on the 10 most common errors when developing a cloud strategy in a remote environment.
The question of business relevance, however, is not one that tech leaders used to ask. So, how can companies set their process — and strategy — straight?
A Diagonal Cloud Model
Vikrant Karnik, who leads cloud and technology services at Genpact, said companies traditionally approached business and tech alignment in one of two ways:
- Vertically, where different business areas like marketing, sales and finance are supported by their own dedicated IT teams.
- Horizontally, where IT teams are organized by skill like custom development, business analysis and coding — and loosely serve all areas of the business.
“In 2023, many tech leaders are building an almost diagonal model, something that takes the best of both approaches,” Karnik said. “Here, the cloud delivers the horizontal technology foundation — accessible by any employee at any time — and business-specific practices are built on top."
He expects it won't be long before companies will have to start updating their cloud environment to cater for this.
“Once, companies were content to replicate legacy technology in a cloud environment,” he said. “Now, cloud-native technologies will be crucial to modernization. Their scalability and flexibility will help leaders innovate much faster."
Other elements are coming into play, too, fueling the cloud revolution, Karnik said. They include:
Powering Data-Driven Decisions
Nearly every enterprise wants to become a data-driven business, and Karnik believes 2023 will be the year algorithmic enterprises will finally become reality.
But shifting from gut to data-driven decisions is only possible with a cloud foundation. “The cloud provides the data and computing power needed for analytics," he said, "from exciting innovations in unsupervised artificial intelligence to predictive models, the cloud fuels the analytical fire."
Prioritizing Process Intelligence
The debate between working from home and returning to the office rages on, but Karnik argues that the conversation is missing the bigger picture. He believes the narrative needs to focus less on where work is done and more on how it gets done.
Security cannot be an afterthought; it must be at the heart of every decision. And the cloud provides considerable opportunities in that space.
Some leaders have already become proactive in their security-first approach, using cloud technologies to build digital twins of processes and applications and then intentionally stress-testing them with a cyberattack.
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Defining Cloud Computing and Goals
The first step in developing or modernizing a cloud strategy is planning. All leaders within the organization need to share a vision of the role of cloud computing for the business, from mission and goals down to milestones and timelines.
Then, every stakeholder must understand the part they each play in bringing the strategy to life. Census CEO Boris Jabes said setting expectations about who is responsible for maintaining and governing the cloud environment and how data stored in the cloud will be secured and managed, for instance, helps drive success and priorities.
This strategy, Jabes said, should also define which applications, services and workloads can be migrated to the cloud and under what conditions they must remain on premise — in addition to detailing budgets and ROI expectations to ensure profitability throughout the years. He argues that by laying out the key components of the strategy, leaders can make better informed decisions on how to best use their IT resources and ensure the success of their digital workplace.
“The cloud is an essential part of any successful digital workplace, and a good cloud strategy sets the foundation for its use,” Jabes said. “With clear objectives, well-defined roles, secure data management and budgeting considerations in place, companies can fully maximize the benefits of the cloud in their digital workforce.”
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In addition to the elements above, organizations should also consider scalability and agility. Change and disruption cannot be ruled out, and companies need to be prepared.
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In doing so, David Johnson, VP of technology at CSG International, said companies may want to keep the following in mind:
Cloud tends to be seen as an inexpensive means to scale a company's technology infrastructure, but Johnson says this isn't exactly accurate. While costs are often deferred, they frequently are higher than expected.
A good cloud strategy has to have ways to account and mitigate the costs of storage, compute and testing, he said. It cannot overlook how much it will cost if the efforts fail in a move-to-cloud effort or, more importantly, if they succeed.
Security is a large and oft-overlooked cloud strategy component because the cloud is assumed safe, and patch management is handled diligently in the current system.
But patching and vulnerability management is getting more important by the day, and a good cloud strategy, especially hybrid or multi-cloud, needs to account for the handling of regular security updates.
“Cloud strategy requires integrated efforts between security and engineering, a partnership that is not always strong," Johnson said. "If a cloud strategy overlooks the day-to-day security maintenance and integration plan, the cloud strategy will struggle to maintain relevance."
According to Johnson, there are limitations with the cloud that makes certain environments more suitable than others. For instance, public cloud may be good for certain workloads, but on-premises solutions may be a better fit for other workloads.
When undertaking a cloud investment, companies need to identify which systems can go onto the cloud and which cannot. Taking a chance here is not an option.
Identifying systems that cannot be moved and how to handle them, particularly if they're integrated, is key to cloud strategy success. Johnson said there needs to be a process to vet if a system is suitable to the cloud and the results that can be expected from it. “Since my systems are highly integrated, moving some to cloud changes the premise of others going to cloud," he said.
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According to Garter, by 2025, 85% of organizations will adopt a cloud-first model that will coexist with digital transformation and smart technologies like AI, ML, data science, etc. Embracing cloud-native strategies for developing cloud infrastructure and operations has become necessary.
Dan Richings, SVP of product management at Adaptiva, said there are six essential elements that must be fulfilled when developing a cloud strategy for the digital workplace. They include:
- Business case: Defining the need for the cloud and the desired outcome.
- Application strategy: Defining the development strategy, e.g, build new business solutions, migrate existing solutions, identify the need for innovation.
- Cloud adoption: Laying out the plan for which cloud platform will be used and the cloud adoption framework followed.
- Cloud governance: The multiple categories and governance structures needed to put into action.
- Operations: Once the cloud governance structure is implemented, the focus should shift to management, security, operations and monitoring the cloud framework.
- Organization: Based on the context of the cloud adoption.
“Cloud strategies accelerate the adoption and use of cloud infrastructure to support changes to day-to-day business operations. Moving to the cloud is more complex than lifting and shifting,” Richings said.
In other words, migrating to or modernizing the cloud is about fundamentally rethinking the way that work is being done and creating platforms that drive forward new strategies and bring together users across the business around shared goals.