I got into the field of technology because I’m fascinated by the potential it creates for people and all types of organizations, including government, non-profit, start-ups and large companies alike. That's why I want to talk to you today about the Cloud Continuum.
Fresh out of Boston College, my first ambition was to see the world and work with women and children. I worked in a Battered Women’s Shelter in Boston and eventually worked at the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda during the Refugee Crisis.
In my current role advising businesses how to leverage technology in their companies, I often think back to those early jobs where the goal was very different, but the process was much the same. No matter what big change an organization hopes to achieve, a first step is knowing your purpose, aligning strategy to it and seeing the potential for technology to improve how we work and the products and services we provide.
This is especially true for cloud.
Although we’ve been talking about cloud for decades, businesses today are at a tipping point where cloud spend will soon surpass non-cloud spend. When I talk to clients now, they’re at a different place. They aren’t asking how to migrate to the cloud, but about how to get more value out of cloud by creating different experiences and products and simplifying how work gets done.
Too often, we hear that the "cloud spigot" is turned on with rising costs, but we’re still not moving fast enough to innovate around customer needs. And digital natives have the advantage of changing the DNA of outdated industry processes and norms.
Additionally, cloud is no longer a single technology. It’s a dynamic continuum of capabilities—from public to edge. Our recent research refers to this as the Cloud Continuum because innovations that used to be exclusively in the public cloud can now be found in multiple locations and destinations, creating a seamless continuum of capabilities to meet ever-changing business needs.
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Strategic leaders view cloud as a future operating model rather than a static destination.
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A fitness retailer provides a great example of how to use cloud capabilities to power a new business model. They did this is by coupling sensor-collected data and real-time analytics from those using their stationary bikes, to drive a better user experience, resulting in the ability to scale on-demand and more than 20% quarter-on-quarter growth.
Strategic leaders are discovering how to capitalize on the Cloud Continuum and, in many instances shaping their industry transformation. They are two to three times more likely to innovate and re-engineer knowledge work, target up to 50% more business measures and are more likely to use cloud to meet corporate sustainability goals.
They do this by viewing cloud as a future operating model rather than a static destination. Not only do they pick the right cloud-based services, but they are also leveraging advanced practices to maximize business value.
Move deeper with 5 key practices.
How do we get there? While each organization has a different strategy, we see five leading practices that truly change and maximize value from the Cloud Continuum.
Business Use Cases – Above all, organizations must focus on industry-specific opportunities, offerings, and partnerships and look at how cloud is changing the game. Whether creating personalized offerings with omnichannel or more predictive and secure supply chains, high-value use cases exist and should be at the center of any cloud program. This shifts strategies from digitization and SaaS to intellectual property, vertical industry solutions and more strategic ecosystem partnerships.
Value from Data – Organizations closely coupling cloud and applied intelligence initiatives to exploit value from data are getting more traction. They are scaling advanced analytics and using AI and ML capabilities and marketplace data to differentiate experiences and solutions beyond the competition. For example, a fast-food company doubled market capitalization in two years through its cloud transformation, enabling self-service kiosks and allowing new customer channels and hyper-personalized loyalty programs.
People & Ways of Working – Organizations that prioritize people and culture as a part of their cloud transformation experience 60% greater value. Our research shows better results across the board, including customer experience, worker productivity and organizational agility and innovation. Key to success is a focus on alignment, ability and adoption.
First, they align the C-suite, both business and IT, creating a combined understanding of the value of implementing new solutions from the continuum. They invest in their people to increase cloud skills and digital fluency across the entire organization and build structures that enable products versus siloed functions. Finally, they adopt new operating models to move faster, eliminate handoffs and continuously evolve and experiment with the data and technology.
Architecting for Hybrid – While the Cloud Continuum presents boundless opportunities, organizations can select and assemble the optimal set of services from multiple venues across the Continuum to fit their own business problems. To do so, organizations are moving from siloed cloud architectures to forward-looking platform strategies that enable intelligent decisioning across multiple clouds and new venues (such as IoT, Edge and Mobile).
Mastering the Cloud Economy – Lastly, organizations are fundamentally changing how they strategically invest in, and operationally manage technology enabled by consumption-based cloud expense models. They are taking a more product-centric approach to total cost of ownership and using agile funding approaches to break the monolith of traditional technology funding cycles.
To enable this, more mature "FinOps" or financial operating processes and tooling are used to increase transparency on value and costs for business units and functions in near real-time. For example, a large global financial services company established a FinOps capability that enabled more than $7M in cost savings; it also enabled reporting in an hour that used to take a month.
The Cloud Continuum is a journey.
While the Cloud Continuum holds potential to create significant business upsides, mastering new practices is the key to successfully transforming the organization across the board. No matter where an organization is on the Continuum, more ROI and continuous improvement are possible.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with several organizations as they work through this process and it’s always a learning experience. I liken the cloud journey to settling into a new home. You move into your new home with your new stuff from your old place. Some of that stuff will fit in and some will have to go.
Similarly, the cloud is not just a place to store things; the solutions available in the market today are there to offer different levels of cloud services and help clients differentiate, uplift revenue, free up cash flow and create new experiences.
In short, business leaders are leading with technology and technology leaders are leading with business. It’s about reinventing business on the back of the Cloud Continuum and it’s as much about people adopting a new operating model as it is about the technology itself.