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How I learned to stop worrying (and love the cloud)

By Jacques du Preez, CEO of Intellinexus

Johannesburg, 18 May 2021
Read time 4min 10sec

It's been just over a year since the first lockdown was announced in South Africa, a year since industries and offices shut down and many organisations were plunged into uncertainty.

Those organisations that were smart (or lucky) enough to have been far along their digital transformation journeys would have found it easier to adapt to lockdown and its forced enablement of remote work.

Others would not have been so lucky: many organisations have found themselves in a perpetual reactive state as one pandemic-induced disruption after the other affected their businesses, their customers and their employees.

Rush to fix ills with tech

This may have initiated a rush to adopt cloud technologies that could enable remote work and help keep the wheels of business running despite the restrictive lockdown.

However, rushing into cloud adoption has exposed organisations to a range of risks. The urgency of enabling cloud technologies to maintain business productivity has obscured organisations' long-term strategic vision.

While remote workers may have been able to continue performing their functions, organisations may tragically realise later down the line that their short-term investments have cost them long-term agility and adaptability.

Issues such as pricing models - more important than ever considering the prevailing economic uncertainty - are harder to quantify in a cloud-first environment, especially with the continued move toward consumption-based pricing which is very hard to predict.

Having the correct support is also critical - cloud services require specific skill sets, which organisations will need to have budgeted and planned for.

The combination of these factors could give even the most seasoned business leader or executive sleepless nights filled with worry over sunk costs, inflexible IT systems and a lack of adaptability.

Tech as enabler of business strategy

So how did I stop worrying and start to love the cloud?

Firstly, it is worth stating that the cloud is not a business strategy. It is simply a tool that helps organisations leverage the areas of opportunity that will help them become more successful over the long term: resilience, predictability, cost-efficiency, business continuity, talent attraction, improved decision-making capabilities and more.

Organisations need to first ask the questions that will help define their business strategy. In light of the pandemic, such questions are likely to revolve around how organisations can achieve greater resilience and adaptability. Resilience enables organisations to quickly adapt and respond to risks in their operating environment, including but not limited to a global pandemic.

Once the strategy is clear, the next step is to define the capabilities and competencies that the business will need to realise its strategy. Considering the prevailing uncertainty and disruptive operating environment, organisations need the ability to make data-driven decisions that can drive growth and efficiency.

Next, what are the technologies that can bring these competencies and capabilities to life?

The importance of insights, measurement, trust

To enable data-driven decision-making, organisations need access to accurate data insights, automation and predictive intelligence. Without the correct mix of analytics, data and people, organisations will struggle to build sufficient capacity for truly accurate and transformative data-driven decision-making.

It is also very likely that the cloud will play some role here, as hybrid working models are almost certain to become the norm even if the world can vaccinate effectively and attain herd immunity against COVID-19.

What's important here is that technology doesn't lead the strategy; it is simply one tool that enables the business strategy, and empowers organisations with greater speed, accuracy and adaptability.

Finally, the old adage "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it" applies. Organisations need to implement key performance indicators that can measure the progress and success of how well the technology components are supporting the business strategy. This also helps prevent unwanted sunk costs as each new technology is bound to strict performance requirements that help ensure the business derives direct benefits from its deployment.

This may include availability, accuracy and adoption of data, the quality of business intelligence derived from systems and processes, and the level of trust in the business outputs created by the technologies that are deployed.

By taking a step back from "must enable cloud now" and looking more holistically at the business strategy and how technology could support various aspects of the business, organisations can eliminate much of the fear and uncertainty over what technologies to implement, what is needed to effectively manage them, and how each part contributes to the achievement of a broader organisational strategy.

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