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The Cloud Continuum

Be ever–ready for every opportunity


The Cloud Continuum. Be ever-ready for every opportunity
The Cloud Continuum

Be ever–ready for every opportunity


Organizations are reimagining their futures in extraordinary circumstances

Change is the new normal. It’s why so many organizations are reimagining their businesses and migrating systems and applications to the cloud. And they’re doing it while their industries and business are in flux. It’s akin to a ship rebuilding its engine and retraining its crew, while somehow trying to maintain its speed and course through a ferocious storm.

But it’s worth the effort.

Our global survey of about 4,000 global business and IT leaders found nearly 65% of respondents saw up to 10% in cost savings, on average, from moving to the cloud. But that’s just one upshot. A small subset of the companies we surveyed—about 12-15% of respondents depending on region—are seeing substantial gains from their continued cloud engagement. They’re benefitting even amidst global disruptions because they recognize the cloud as a launchpad for innovating and new ways of operating.

The Cloud Continuum

From siloed to seamless: Choose capabilities from across the Cloud Continuum to unleash future competitiveness

Meet the Continuum Competitors

When organizations build on cloud’s capabilities, they’ll discover opportunities and options for meeting the ever-changing needs of the business. Organizations working in this Cloud Continuum create a technology foundation that will serve them now and well into the future.

We call these companies Continuum Competitors because they are using cloud not just as a single, static destination, but as a future operating model.

They’re transforming how they interact with customers, partners and employees; how they make and market their products and services; how they build and operate their IT systems; and they’re reimagining the role of data and compute.

Critically, this approach allows them to outpace their peers on many fronts. Continuum Competitors see 1.2x-2.7x greater cost reduction than migration players, and are also:


more likely to innovate and re-engineer knowledge work


more likely to use cloud for at least two sustainability goals, such as using green energy sources, architecting for lower power consumption and utilizing servers better for a lower energy footprint

Creating the future you choose

Continuum Competitors secure their advantageous position in two ways. First, they choose the right types of cloud and cloud-based services. Second, they implement advanced practices to leverage those technologies.

This enables them to reimagine and reinvent their business altogether through continuous innovation, powered by various types of cloud capabilities that operate seamlessly across the Continuum.

The choices you make, along with the speed and proficiency of execution, will dictate whether you lead or follow in the next three to five years.

Overcoming the obstacles

Migration is challenging enough on its own. There are complex legacy systems to navigate. Changing business and operating models. Evolving architectures, applications and data. Reskilling your workforce. Complying with regulations. There’s also the fear of lost or compromised data.

But this all speaks to widespread misunderstanding of the long-term value of being in cloud.

Those that are advancing their cloud engagements are leading—and even shaping—their industry transformations and pulling farther ahead of their competitors. What’s more, our research shows that organizations don’t have to be so-called digital natives to move quickly and effectively in this space. For instance, 3M, Starbucks and Roche are all Continuum Competitors.

What are the challenges holding companies back?

Top pain-points of cloud adoption:

Complexity of business and operational change
Security and compliance risk
Misalignment between IT and business
Legacy infrastructure and/or application sprawl
Data sovereignty concerns / regulations

These challenges keep organizations from rapidly expanding cloud adoption and leveraging the Continuum.

Making the Cloud Continuum work for you

First, acknowledge that there’s more to the cloud than savings. The nature of the Cloud Continuum is that speed and change are its fundamental facets. Agile practices that can harness the continual improvements and expansion of cloud capabilities are crucial.

With that in mind, here are the four keys to Continuum success:

Four keys to unlocking the potential of the Cloud Continuum

01/ Know where you want to go

Know where you want to go

02/ Establish cloud practices to augment your technologies

Establish cloud practices to augment your technologies

03/ Accelerate innovation to deliver exceptional experiences

Accelerate innovation to deliver exceptional experiences

04/ Keep committing to strategy

Keep committing to strategy


01/ Know where you want to go

01/ Know where you want to go

In order to achieve the full potential of your enterprise in cloud, it’s important to develop a Continuum strategy that gets three things right:

  • A vision that clearly states the core values and future aspirations
  • An identification of competitive vulnerabilities and shortcomings
  • A clear classification of capabilities, with a line of sight from where your organization is today to your future aspirations.

Continuum Competitors are:


more likely to innovate and re-engineer knowledge work


more likely to use cloud for at least two sustainability goals, such as using green energy sources, architecting for lower power consumption and utilizing servers better for a lower energy footprint

Your Cloud Continuum strategy can help you realize your business potential

Since the Continuum is not just one technology, but many, drawing up clear priorities helps create guardrails that keep different parts of an organization moving in the same, desired direction.

Girl in production

In depth: Siemens’ smarter manufacturing

In 2017 Siemens AG created MindSphere, a cloud-based operating system built on native AWS technologies. It can process data, in real-time, from thousands or even millions of devices and sensors in plants, systems, machinery and products dispersed throughout production processes and supply chains.

MindSphere was deployed that same year at Siemens’s own factory in Monterrey, Mexico, which manufactures more than 28 million circuit breakers and switches a year. The factory was finding it difficult to monitor the overall efficiency of equipment, including unplanned downtimes and uneven quality of production.

By connecting the factory to cloud, workers were able to view problems such as a malfunctioning machine, in real-time, and make immediate improvements.

By 2018, Siemens made MindSphere available on Microsoft Azure, which enabled a bigger base of customers to achieve quick time-to-value and scale across the enterprise.

Today, Siemens offers a range of multi-cloud based solutions to customers in many other industries to realize greater efficiency and cost savings from their machines and processes.

02/ Establish cloud practices to
augment your technologies

02/ Establish cloud practices to augment your technologies

Migrating and sitting back to enjoy the ride is not a winning cloud strategy. If you don’t take extra steps (such as building on cloud, leveraging PaaS services or applying AI to your data and processes), you simply won’t see the boost in growth, revenue and innovation that your competitors enjoy.

The key is to couple technology adoption with practices that bring discipline and help you change your non-technology areas at the pace of computational improvements.


We’ve evolved our thinking to focus on 5 practices that help extract maximum value from cloud

Continuum practices - cloud is a permanent commitment to reinvention

Feed-It-Forward: Speed time to future markets, again and again

Continuous Goals: Alignment is continuous, not episodic

Cloud-first Apps: Cloud’s the developers’ default

Talent Transformation: Compress transformation continuously

IT Experimentation: Unremittingly upgrade experiences

Scale Awareness: Predict the power requirements for new generation of cloud-AI services

Tablet with chart data


Continuum Competitors follow at least four out of five best practices and adopt between 25% to 80% more technologies while delivering far better outcomes. By embedding agility into the development of new processes, those processes will repay you by allowing for ever-more agility in the future. It’s a self-funded transformation.

Starbucks serves up exceptional experiences

It’s no wonder that Starbucks hits high on all the best practices given the company’s laser focus on exceptional experience and personalization. Because so much of Starbucks’ business has been cloud-ready for so many years, they’re well positioned in the Cloud Continuum to continue to innovate and grow, even through economic and social uncertainties.

In depth: How Starbucks perfectly blends practices and technology

Man and woman talking

1) Continuous Goals
Starbucks uses cloud to capture incremental feedback and adapt goals continuously to achieve maximum outcome—the business is aligned with its innovative IT division. The company is using data to continuously improve the experience for customers and partners.

Phobe application

2) Cloud-first Apps
As customer experience is the most frequently tested metric for Starbucks, the company created an AI-driven recommendation platform called Deep Brew. The platform supports 100 million weekly customers, offering personalized recommendations—effectively turning every Starbucks menu into a smart, cloud-enabled edge device.

Barista pouring coffee

3) Talent Transformation
Starbucks is testing Natural-Language Processing (NLP) for heads-up ordering so baristas can maintain eye contact with customers. AI-driven espresso machines allow baristas to focus on personalized crafting of the coffee, and predictive maintenance of the machines reduces downtime and facilitates repairs.

Girl with eyeglasses looking at a computer

4) IT Experimentation
Starbucks’ culture of experimentation includes hackathon-styled app development. The goal is to churn out as many ideas as quickly as possible. Among those ideas is digital traceability from bean to cup via blockchain, an in-app feature for customers and suppliers alike.

Woman laughing

5) Scale Awareness
Starbucks’ reach is far and growing, serving 80 markets with more than 30,000 stores. This sort of scale requires clear understanding of compute power and its ability to accommodate next-generation products and services across those 30,000 locations with near simultaneous results.

03/ Accelerate innovation to deliver exceptional experiences

03/ Accelerate innovation to deliver exceptional experiences

Continuum Competitors prioritize their investments in one area: experience. Experience-obsessed reimagination of their business is a competitive differentiator, and they make their investments visible and accessible to both employees and customers.

Woman in a lab gown


More than 90% of Continuum Competitors in North America, for example, use cloud to enhance collaboration among employees and encourage ambitious projects that cut across business functions and geographies.

They use cloud to make work more interesting and data-driven by reducing rote tasks and manual maintenance work, or used cloud-based tools to make technology approachable.

In depth: Beautiful attractions at Sephora

Exceptional experience is a guiding principle at beauty retailer Sephora. The company employs AI across its app and in-store to make the shopping experience personal. Consider this:

Meet the new motivations bar chart
  • Sephora Visual Artist:
    A 3D live experience enables customers to try on product virtually via Sephora’s app and in-store. Sephora partnered with AI and AR app provider ModiFace to launch both its mobile app and in-store 3D augmented-reality mirror.
  • Color IQ:
    A device scans the surface of your skin and assigns it a Color IQ number, which reveals scientifically precise foundation matches—an inclusive design for traditionally under-represented skin tones. This helps the company stock a wider range of foundations and other cosmetics, and delivers a personalized user experience to diverse customers.

In tandem with customer-facing initiatives, Sephora is also redesigning in-house jobs, merging its digital and physical retail teams.

Sephora can now look at customers from a 360-degree perspective and better use AI to target the individual shoppers.

04/ Keep committing to strategy

04/ Keep committing to strategy

It’s critical that leaders understand how to balance their own Continuum ambitions with strategic priorities that will keep the business focused. Specifically, leadership needs to establish business objectives, appropriate levels of risk-taking, and evangelize a culture for agility and growth.

This is easy enough to say, but in practice, there can be complexities around budgeting mentality, how business interacts with IT, risks and incentives, how success is measured and the project-versus-product mindset.

This is why the call to action needs to come from the top—and with as much clarity and focus as possible.

But enterprises must also recognize the “all-hands” nature of the challenge. Everyone across the organization needs to be aware of cloud’s potential and best practices. When more people with varying perspectives and skillsets are invited into the conversation, more possibilities abound.

“[With] a very strong mentality of empowerment in the organization—shared goals, shared directions, shared framework and guardrails, all empowering people to act as they see fit. With that combination of alignment and empowerment, things happen a lot more quickly and more powerfully than before.”
Michael G. Vale, EVP of Safety & Industrial Business Group, 3M

3M scales up to double down

3M, for example, started its cloud journey in 2016. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and hospitals were in desperate need of protective gear, 3M’s manufacturing plants found it difficult to gather, transfer and use the data from the production systems.

The company began pushing data from the plant’s on-premises SQL Server to Azure SQL Edge. This ultimately enabled faster and more streamlined processes, and allowed 3M to predict a manufacturing line’s problems in advance.


By the end of 2020, the company had doubled its global production of N95 respirators to more than 1.1 billion per year.

Reinventing on the Continuum


Experience what the Cloud Continuum can do for you

Migration of core systems and data is the foundation of a successful cloud journey—but it’s just table stakes.

From there, companies must ask themselves how they can use cloud to position themselves for sustained growth in the next three to five years.

Continuum Competitors are ahead of the pack. They’re building smart factories, efficient supply chains, sustainable products and thriving organizations using cloud-based technologies such as AI/ML, private cloud, edge, 5G and PaaS, among others. They are finding new ways to shape the transformation of their industries by leveraging cloud-based solutions to solve industry-specific problems.

Achieving similar gains requires first understanding the power of the Cloud Continuum and what it can do for your organization. What’s more, your leadership must adopt and infuse a cloud-first culture throughout the organization.

Change hearts, change minds, change the way you work. Unlocking the full potential of your enterprise in cloud will result in substantial, sustained payoffs.

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