Cloud computing has helped many of our clients begin to transform their IT practices over the past few years. But more recent projects we’ve worked on show how companies are now beginning to use the cloud to transform their entire business. Such projects gives us only a glimpse of what the cloud can do when it becomes more firmly ingrained in virtually all aspects of a company’s operations.
What does the future hold for the cloud? Five key trends give us some insight into where it’s headed.
#1: Beyond the numbers: Cloud drivers include innovation, agility and speed.
In the past few years, there’s been a big shift in the mindset driving the adoption of the cloud—from a cost reduction mentality to one that’s focused much more on innovation, agility, and speed. Companies now ask, “How can the cloud help my business more quickly and effectively react to market conditions?”
Also key to the growth in cloud adoption has been companies’ desire to embrace such things as IoT, analytics, Robotic Process Automation, and artificial intelligence. These are difficult for companies to build from scratch, but they are increasingly available in the cloud.
And we see companies looking beyond “feature functions” to address the broader experience and outcomes the cloud makes possible. For example, one life sciences company we worked with asked us to embed more innovation capabilities into their cloud solutions. So we set up an innovation studio, delivered as-a-Service, which has significantly enhanced the company’s R&D efforts.
#2: Think big: Taking a broader view of the cloud and its potential impacts.
Companies increasingly look at the cloud as the foundation for a much broader transformation of the business. In doing so, they need to determine the breadth of the impact the cloud can have on their entire technology estate and their operating model.
They also need to change how they buy cloud solutions. In the early days, business users bought Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to circumvent IT—they were keen to turn on a capability and were frustrated with how long it took. Now that SaaS is so integrated into the fabric of companies’ architectures, and cloud’s reach spans the business, the business and IT need to be tightly linked when making cloud decisions.
#3: Cloud: Not just for trailblazers anymore.
Growth in the cloud is no longer limited to a few forward-thinking industries. Some of the early adopters of the cloud were industries like high tech. But now we see significant growth in other areas including banking, resources, retail and consumer goods, healthcare and pharmaceutical, and public services and government. A lot of this growth can be attributed to a huge rise in industry-specific cloud solutions. For instance, companies such as GE, Predix, and Phillips are investing heavily to create broad platforms within their industries, and SaaS providers are moving very aggressively into developing their own industry solutions.
Accenture also has a strong focus on industry, having created 35 cloud solutions tailored to specific industries. We believe industry clouds will continue to grow and become even more important in the coming years.
#4: Cloud First: Start with cloud as the answer.
Going forward, many are using what we call a Cloud First strategy. That means, when considering anything new, they start with cloud as the answer. Of course, business requirements, regulations, system limitations, and other factors may mean the cloud isn’t a viable option in some cases. But by thinking Cloud First, companies can make sure they benefit from the cloud’s advantages as much as possible.
And as companies step up their cloud adoption, they’re taking an application view of their technology estate, asking what they should do with what they already have. Should they migrate an application as is, refactor it, or replace it with a cloud-native version?
#5: Stumbling blocks: Network, operating model and talent remain big challenges to faster adoption.
When companies want to accelerate their journey to the cloud, they encounter three main stumbling blocks.
The network is still probably the biggest bottleneck—existing networks built for legacy data centers simply can’t handle the demands of the cloud.
Another big issue is the operating model. As mentioned earlier, the cloud has a significant impact on how a company works. Thus, a company must enact significant changes to its operating model or, in some cases, build a completely new one.
And talent is a third. What kind of skills are needed to make these changes and transform the company into a cloud-based business? We probably all can agree there isn’t enough innate talent across the entire system at this point to go around.
These trends paint a clear picture of the cloud as being well past the “what it is?” stage and now firmly into the “how do I use it?” phase. There’s certainly still more work to do, but the foundational capabilities are now in place to power businesses in new ways, both today and into the future.