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Aligning the cloud with true business value

Traditionally, when initiating any major corporate undertaking, you involve the entire business leadership. Whether you’re expanding into a new market, launching a new product, or acquiring another company, you’re making a business decision. These actions necessitate a strategic vision crafted by the company's executive leadership.


Jordan Windebank, Managing Director Cloud Solutions (APAC)

So why is it, then, that when businesses make a major investment in cloud adoption, they don’t put it through the same business rigor?

Too many businesses view cloud as just another iteration of technology, something for the IT department to buy and implement.

Yet cloud adoption needs to be viewed through the same business lens as any other significant commercial endeavor. The entire leadership needs to be involved, because cloud will touch every part of your organization.

Businesses everywhere know that they need to adopt cloud technology. They just haven’t realized: It’s an opportunity to transform the organization. The shift to the cloud is a strategic decision that hits everybody on the management team—and everybody in the organization, from finance to risk management to sales.

That’s hard work. But it’s worth your effort. Because if you can transform your organization as you move to the cloud in a deep and meaningful way, you’ll reap all kinds of rewards. Everyone in your organization will be engaged with each other as never before, and they’ll also be more highly engaged with your customers and your business’s mission.

And that can only be a good thing.

The three conversations

I've been working in both enterprise technology and consulting roles for almost 20 years, and for the past decade, I've worked with quite a few of the Fortune 20 in a number of different markets.

I typically have three key discussions with executives at these companies:

Cloud journey hesitation

CTOs or CIOs who have not have not started this journey yet are now very hesitant. They're starting to recognize that this move to the cloud is bigger than their IT realm. What they're signing the organization up for is outside of their control. And the rest of the organization doesn’t get it either. They still see the cloud as servers and networks. They think this is just an infrastructure replacement project. They say, “I am replacing some old boxes in a data center with new boxes in a different data center.” And it is so much more than that.

Cloud implementation regrets

Many customers have already gone down this path and they absolutely regret it. They are not getting the value that they were promised. The hyperscalers spend a lot of money to drive the message that the cloud is good. Yet that goodness is not materializing because companies are not implementing it properly. They don't understand why they're moving certain things to the cloud. They haven't thought through the hidden cost that comes from an investment like this. And once they start, they regret it really fast because they're getting all of the downside of cloud and very little benefit.

Cloud investment strategy

The smartest people we talk to ask: “Why am I investing in this? What is the actual business value that I am trying to create by making this investment?” If you're starting from the perspective of understanding the value and aligning it to your business’s key performance indicators, then you’re opening the discussion up to more than just the servers and the networks. You’re talking about the total cost rather than just the tech expense.

The benefits and challenges of cloud transformation

I am not trying to scare anyone off. You should be in the cloud. You just need to make sure you’ve aligned it with your business.

The cloud gives you agility. It gives you access to capabilities that you can't do on your own. This is especially true with rapidly emerging Gen AI technology.

To reap those benefits, however, requires a completely different relationship that an organization has with technology. That’s because the agility doesn't come from the cloud. The agility comes from changing the organization's way of doing software engineering, platform engineering, financial management, risk management—all those other things that unlock the ability to become agile.

Organizations that don't address that side of it are just stuck with running a bunch of virtual machines with one of the big hyperscalers and finding that it’s more expensive than what their data center used to cost.

And cost blowouts are hardly the only problem. Failing to act reckon with the need to change up front can lead to spikes in risk profile, regulatory scrutiny, significant rework after the fact and taking scarce resources away from value-creating change. These all represent massive concerns for large organizations.

IT’s Changing Role

While the CIOs are nervous, I typically tell them they’re in a great position to help their companies, if they can see their way to give up some control and make those crucial alignments.

IT will have to share the responsibility of making technology investment decisions more with other executives, but it also elevates IT's contribution to actual business performance. It creates an environment where IT has more of a voice at the table, rather than just being infrastructure, but IT does have to allow others into the decision-making process more so than in the past.

IT faces a fairly substantial risk if it doesn’t take action to ensure cloud adoption considers all of the business ramifications. CIOs face an existential crisis. Where historically they have been the gatekeeper of technology, business leaders now have the option to going to the hyperscalers directly to procure technology services themselves.

CIOs’ failure to adapt and address the emerging needs of the business will be detrimental to their future standing in the organization. We have already seen many scenarios where this is occurring.

It's a lot of change to adopt at once. It requires leadership at the absolute top of the house to drive this. The only organizations where we've seen this work properly are the ones where it's coming from not just the tech leadership, but the business leadership.

In those organizations, we spend a lot of time on both sides of the house to help them build alignment. They need a common language, a common understanding, so that they can make singular decisions. They can’t have one person or one department making a business decision and another making a tech decision. It all must flow from the same place.

Using Tech to Unlock Business Value

Successful organizations recognize that the prevailing view of cloud transformation as a purely technological undertaking is fundamentally flawed.

Visionary leaders understand that the true value of technology lies in its capacity to enable significant business value creation. They focus on the ultimate objectives, be it achieving a competitive edge, fostering differentiation in development strategies, or enhancing customer alignment.

It's this business-centric viewpoint that propels both organizational and technological evolution.

You’re spending a lot of money on your move to the cloud. Spend some time as well, and make sure you get it right.