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No Board Ultimatum when it comes to the cloud

By Stuart Birchall, Head of Customers Solutions Architecture, Zen Business

Stuart Birchall 4533 - Business Express
Stuart Birchall, Head of Customers Solutions Architecture, Zen Business

With the rise of remote working and new notion of the hybrid worker, organisations are turning to technology more than ever before. One example being utilised to bridge the gap between traditional office-based work and its modern interpretation is the cloud. 

Although the cloud has been around for years, it’s scale, flexibility and always on available anywhere nature means that it is set to play a fundamental role in enabling businesses to thrive in the future; a future of rapid product and service evolution, online services and increased competition. However, despite this increased need for cloud to help businesses upscale their digital services and work from anywhere, many are still not moving fast enough, wasting precious resources on more familiar legacy technologies. 

A recent Accenture study revealed that although almost all (90%) organisations had actually adopted cloud in some form, on average only 20-40% of their workloads have been moved to the cloud. In fact, according to our own research, businesses are still heavily reliant on legacy approaches, with nearly half (49%) of businesses mixing on-premises technology with upfront costs (capex) and cloud services (opex), with a further third (32%) using just on-premises. So, with organisations accepting the need to adopt the cloud, but not utilising it fully, what can they do integrate more within the business?

Securing board buy in

It appears IT leaders have got a lot of work to do. According to our research a lack of budgets, buy in from senior line managers and the board itself are presenting the greatest challenges to adopting the cloud. This is put into further context when the same research revealed CEOs are the most influential when it comes to cloud computing, meaning IT leaders must get them on board, before they can commit to any significant progress in this space. 

It stands to reason that the CEO is often the person to sign off on key decisions and take responsibility for loosening the purse strings for such large projects. IT leaders who attempt to charge through the front door in a blaze of glory are unlikely to make progress. Instead, a more considered approach is needed. It’s important for IT leaders to be able to highlight the benefits of the cloud in a clear and structured manner if they are to win board approval. Therefore, what arguments do they need to make?

Showing why on-premises is no longer enough

The first argument comes down to infrastructure. Many on-premises servers and software can be difficult, time consuming and costly to maintain. This is often due to their age, meaning maintenance becomes increasingly tricky. For example, businesses must continually stay up to date with the latest software and applications. While these updates can be beneficial, often they don’t provide the flexibility, scalability or features businesses need in this increasingly digital-first world. Additionally, server infrastructure needs a suitable operating environment, climate controlled, with redundant power and physically secure.

This lack of flexibility can also have an impact on talent. IT teams can become increasingly frustrated with having to maintain on-premises solutions, while employees may rue their company’s inability to offer remote working solutions. 

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Next up is cost of capacity and usage. The need for immediate remote working caught many by surprise, as the pandemic forced businesses to shift from the office to home working. For those with on-premises date centres, this meant major upheaval. Contingency planning is part of any business activity and is particularly vital to ensure flexibility should any issues arise. For example, businesses looking to expand rapidly require ongoing investment in real world servers if they are operating an on-premises model. However, problems can arise, often leaving a business with more capacity than is needed, and effectively resulting in unnecessary costs.

Also, there’s the issue of security. No system will ever make a company completely safe, but with on-premises, IT leaders must continually ensure systems are updated and patched, while keeping an eye on the security landscape. It’s a thankless job.

Send in the cloud

With all this in mind, it’s time IT leaders showcase the benefits the cloud has to offer. While many on the board may think the journey can be long and complex, it doesn’t need to be. Businesses can look to partner with a company that can take on the migration for them and can work closely with the major cloud providers on their behalf. This frees up companies to focus on increasing the skills of their employees around value creating activities that enhance the bottom line. All that said, it’s important to note that moving to the cloud does mean the cloud provider taking over basic maintenance, servicing and updating.

The cloud also enables greater flexibility straight away. It allows businesses to scale at short notice, flexing their virtual servers, storage and software to suit their specific needs. If they need more capacity, they just rent a bit more of the cloud and only pay for what they use. It also enables businesses to experiment and innovate with new tools and applications with no penalty and low start-up costs.

Cloud adoption doesn’t mean a leap into the unknown with a ‘cliff edge’ all or nothing move either. The same on-demand flexibility afforded by cloud also means that businesses can take that experimental approach and transition services at a pace that suits them, acquiring skills and experience along the way.

From a security perspective, moving to the cloud automatically boosts the security expertise in the team, thanks to the cloud provider. They can keep an eye on the security landscape, update the business’ systems automatically and monitor the infrastructure for suspicious activity. Having the right cloud-based backup means not worrying about servers going down or critical data being unavailable too.

Don’t give that board ultimatum 

So, with all these great benefits, IT leaders should just press on with pushing everything to the cloud, right? Well, while action heroes like Jason Bourne ignore their superiors and go their own way, IT leaders need that board buy in to implement new applications and increasingly adopt the cloud.

As our reliance on digital services, remote working and flexibility grows, the importance of adopting and integrating the cloud will only increase. While the benefits are there to see, those at the top hold the keys to the kingdom and IT leaders must get them on board to fuel the era of the hybrid worker.

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