In brief

In brief

  • Our study explored whether enterprises yield better results when they continuously invest in people and use cloud strategy to power business growth.
  • Just 18% of CXOs have a clear cloud transformation vision and are implementing continuous change across their workforce and throughout their journey.
  • Modern Cloud Champions experience up to 60% greater value across workforce and cloud transformation outcomes on average.
  • Leaders must prioritize their people as much as their technology to transform their business with and to the cloud.

What’s in the way of cloud value?

While cloud technology can solve urgent business problems, 63% of companies fail to capture the expected value from their cloud investments. The people and change dimensions of the cloud journey are major roadblocks.1 A skills shortage is the top barrier to achieving cloud value—ranked #1 by 54% of CEOs. Other top barriers include IT and business misalignment (40%) and the complexity of business and organizational change (39% overall).1

How can companies achieve greater value from cloud by unlocking human potential?

A clear vision

Some companies are capturing the advantages of the cloud. What are they doing differently? Our Accenture Modern Cloud Champions 2021 Study uncovered that continuously investing in people and using their cloud strategy to power business growth benefits both the workforce and cloud transformation.

We found that just 18% of CXOs are doing both. We call this group Modern Cloud Champions. This elite group recognizes that capturing value from cloud investments to accelerate digital transformation is not just a technology challenge, but a people opportunity.

As the next wave of cloud adoption becomes more complex due to a continuum of cloud services and capabilities critical for transformation, executives need to build a workforce better positioned to drive cloud-enabled value.

It pays to be a champ

Modern Cloud Champions are seeing greater workforce benefits from their change investments and better payoffs from their cloud transformation efforts, such as:


greater value across workforce and cloud transformation outcomes on average


more gains across employee productivity and cross-functional collaboration and communication


faster cloud migration


enhanced organizational agility and innovation and improved customer experience

Stronger IT and business collaboration are also leading benefits. How? While Champions are more likely to have IT-led cloud transformation efforts, they are 3x more likely to operate as one unit with business and more inclined to undergo faster cloud migration and increased cloud adoption.

Levers of modern cloud champions

Champions are excelling across five levers that help drive cloud-enabled business transformation:


Driving transformation requires the right skills and talent. Skill building can reduce the risk of being left behind. The Modern Cloud Champion that accelerates the cloud journey is 4.6x more likely to have the skills needed to transform into a cloud-enabled organization and 4.3x more likely to develop future talent at scale.


All areas of the company must adopt the cloud in a unified way to succeed. By promoting a culture of growth across the workforce, Modern Cloud Champions outperform the competition. As they lead from a clear strategy, they promote cross-functional collaboration while advancing business objectives with the cloud.


Modern Cloud Champions prioritize a test-and-learn culture. As a result, they are: 2x more likely to embrace continuous innovation across leadership and the workforce, 1.5x more likely to encourage employees to take risks, and nearly 5x more likely to promote cross-functional and cross-cultural teamwork.

Operating model

Modern Cloud Champions excel at promoting collaboration and business transformation. They are 1.8x more likely to enable open, unfettered access to people, processes, systems and assets inside and outside their ecosystems. Executives consider them crucial sources of growth, with 9 out of 10 businesses prioritizing ecosystem business models.2


Equipped with the most innovative and up-to-date technologies, digital architecture and tools, Modern Cloud Champions enable better, faster and safer access to data. This empowers those closest to the data and customer to make better informed and more strategic customer-centric decisions that improve business outcomes.

View All

Unlock cloud value through five levers

These five levers that Champions are activating can deliver both non-financial and financial benefits. But focusing on a single lever, such as talent, is not enough to unlock full value.

We developed a Champions index that takes into account the various dimensions of the five levers. Companies with a higher index score exhibit better workforce and transformation benefits.3 The big learning here is that any one lever on its own only adds incremental value. The ability to capture full value from cloud adoption requires all five levers to work in tandem throughout the organization.

In addition, these levers accelerate value differently across outcomes. For example, a company focused on driving agility and innovation through the cloud is going to find the talent lever, working alongside the other levers as their accelerator. 

Agility and innovation

Agility and innovation


When comparing similar companies, an enterprise with 10pp higher cloud adoption alongside a simultaneous increase of the five levers, exhibits 1.04pp higher EBITDA growth.4 This increase of 1.04% is split across the levers, with talent (25%) and governance (23%) emerging as slightly stronger levers.

Both analyses suggest that while talent carries slightly more weight, all five areas are key to unlocking both financial value and people potential throughout the cloud journey.

Become a modern cloud champion

Sponsor content from Accenture as seen on HBR

View Transcript

Modern Cloud Champions unlock both financial and non-financial value. That’s because they focus on a variety of levers that accelerate value differently across outcomes.

It’s time to take the first three steps toward becoming a champ by implementing cloud alignment, ability and adoption.

  • Align the C-suite on your cloud ambition, strategy, priorities and trade-offs.
  • Foster collaboration between IT and the business to lead cloud transformation.
  • Communicate the cloud strategy and value at stake throughout your cloud journey.
  • Break down organizational silos and use cross-functional teams to bring the strategy to fruition.
  • Design your operating model and organization to enable speed, agility and innovation.
  • Invest in and prioritize learning to help your people develop skills and talent for today and tomorrow.
  • Foster digital fluency across your entire enterprise (cloud, data, security, AI, automation, IoT, blockchain and agile).
  • Build a culture of continuous learning and a growth mindset focused on the future and making decisions at speed.
  • Encourage innovation and experimentation at scale.
  • Empower workers to make more of their own decisions with clear guidelines and access to data.
  • Streamline processes and reduce friction points to enable speed and agility.
  • Embrace a growth mindset that values progress over perfection.

Modern Cloud Champions unlock greater human potential and cloud value driving business transformation. They understand that people will drive the cloud agenda, but the journey must be underpinned by a strategy tied to business goals. These leaders tear down silos hindering collaboration. They empower people to experiment and foster the skills needed to accelerate transformation. They’re not just migrating; they’re continually moving in the best direction—up.

About the research

Accenture Research fielded a survey between February and April 2021 to 1101 executives with insights gathered from 2500+ global workers. This research spanned 11 countries and 10 industries. Econometric methods were employed to understand drivers of workforce and cloud transformation outcomes. The research also asked respondents to rate the strength of their organizations across identified levers. Their responses were ranked and consolidated into a single index score, confirming that a higher index score  reflecting stronger talent, governance, leadership, operating models, and culture  is associated with higher workforce and cloud transformation benefits. Lastly, we also estimated the effect of greater cloud adoption and the effect of the 5 levers on EBITDA growth.

1 Accenture. 2020. Sky high hopes: Navigating the barriers to maximizing cloud value.

2 Accenture. 2020. CXO Pulse Survey: Wave 3.

3 This analysis controls for differences between companies in different industries, in different countries, with different operating models as well as variations due to size.

4 Using econometric methods, we measure EBITDA growth (past 12 months) associated with 10pp higher cloud adoption and the activation of the 5 levers. This analysis controls for differences between companies in different industries, in different countries, with different operating models as well as variations due to size.

Yaarit Silverstone

Senior Managing Director – Talent & Organization / Human Potential, Global Strategy Lead & North America Lead

Sarah Bartel

Managing Director – Cloud Change, Global Lead

Philippe Chauffard

Senior Managing Director – Infrastructure Engineering, Cloud First, Global Lead


From always connected to omni-connected experiences
Want to boost cloud value by 60%? Migrate your people
The cloud continuum

Subscription Center
Stay in the know with our newsletters Stay in the know with our newsletters