Rethinking business processes around the cloud is the key to digital transformation
By Sumit Kumar Sharma, Enterprise Architect and Head of Advisory Services at In2IT
The traditional on-premises application landscape is gradually being replaced by cloud-based infrastructure or software as a service. This transformation is underway but has been rapidly accelerated over the past two years by the pandemic. While South Africa may be lagging behind the developed world, the country is leading the way on the African continent, with the emergence of many cloud-born start-ups, and even large companies setting up shop. confidently in the cloud.
The challenge for companies on the path to transformation is not just a change in infrastructure, but a complete change of mindset. It is often not possible to move and transfer technology to the cloud, and this approach will limit innovation. We need to ask ourselves not how the cloud can fit into business processes, but how business processes can change to make the most of the business value of cloud-based technologies.
Understanding the future state
Prior to the pandemic, there had been many stories of cloud implementation failures, as companies rushed to remove their on-premises infrastructure. Now the story is very different. Organizations that had started successfully migrating to the cloud were in a better position when outside circumstances forced their arms. Those who hadn’t had to go fast. But, with experience comes learning, and as technology and the market have matured, digital transformation has become a smoother process.
The key, as always, is effective planning. If the planning for the cloud migration is not done correctly from the start, it will inevitably create difficulties. There are two steps here: First, companies need to understand their baseline, especially if there is a heavy investment in on-premise infrastructure. Second, a clear target state needs to be established, knowing that the cloud is a transition, not necessarily a journey with a defined initial and final goal. Lift and shift are often not possible at all because the on-site data is so strongly anchored. Most cloud-based technology companies recommend a “land and expand” approach. Establish the cloud footprint to make sure all the building blocks are in place, then extend the cloud footprint.
Understanding where you are and where you want to be, and then developing a strategy around it, is essential. There is no “one size fits all” cloud strategy. The result is often multi-cloud and hybrid, and change is constant as regulations, compliance, and businesses evolve.
People, process, data
Unlike traditional technology migrations, cloud migration should be about people, processes, and data. People are often the hardest part because the cloud isn’t just new software. This is a whole new way of working in many cases, so if people aren’t upgraded, requalified, or equipped with the tools to use the technology, the implementation will not be successful.
Processes are where the cloud gets interesting. The cloud isn’t just software, it’s a revolution in the way infrastructure and applications are delivered, and it has huge potential. Organizations often try to adapt the cloud to their existing business processes, limiting its use and potential for innovation. Comprehensive use of the cloud goes beyond that: Next-gen technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning don’t match traditional processes, so companies need to rethink things to ensure they can make the most of the cloud
Data is often the biggest stumbling block in cloud migrations: Everything businesses do today depends on data, and some data interactions are not fully understood by many businesses. Migrating to the cloud is an opportunity for businesses to rethink the way data is used, stored and managed to better align with new models and processes, as well as compliance and regulatory goals.
The long game
Business processes, behavior, and data all need to evolve as we move forward in the cloud. The benefits are many: lower capital expenditures and lower operating costs, increased agility and scalability, on-demand infrastructure, cutting-edge technologies are all part of the cloud by design. Security is often actually better than on-premises, and the cloud also offers improved business continuity, as data and applications can be accessed from anywhere and anytime.
It’s important to remember, however, that cloud migrations are a long game. There are immediate returns, but many organizations are seeing competitive advantages in the medium to long term after augmenting their business operating model with cloud-enabled digital transformations. Migrations to the cloud should also be a business decision, not an IT decision, as the cloud is fundamentally changing the way businesses do business. Additionally, the right IT partner is an invaluable asset, providing invaluable experience and helping to define a clear strategy with a long-term vision.