By Milind Govekar

The onset of COVID-19 caused the most disruptive period of this millennium, but it also demonstrated the monumental power and importance of cloud services. Cloud computing helped numerous organizations rapidly respond to evolving customer needs, supported millions of people in shifting to remote work, and ensured IT resilience for enterprises worldwide.

Beyond supporting just digitalization, cloud is creating new opportunities for digital innovation. Cloud serves as the centrepiece of new digital services, enabling experiences such as mobile payment systems where banks have invested in startups, energy companies using cloud to improve their customers’ retail experiences, or car companies launching new personalization services for customer safety and infotainment.

In many ways, cloud served as a bright spot coming out of the pandemic. Yet despite high adoption rates, few enterprises have maximized cloud’s full strategic potential. Here are three critical cloud-adoption disciplines CIOs can master to scale cloud as an innovation platform for digital initiatives — and even launch new business models.

1. Strategize and innovate

Technology-related change was the second-most-reported business priority among respondents to the Gartner 2021 CEO Survey, suggesting that CEOs plan to use technology to gain a competitive edge and outpace the rapid change that comes with disruptive business models.

Cloud can do just that: provide the services platform for driving innovation and disrupt markets in ways that will lead to growth, better customer retention, and efficiency. 

However, the business value of cloud cannot be realized without a fit-for-purpose cloud strategy that aligns cloud investment with the delivery of business objectives. A CIO’s first step here is to define the key elements of cloud costs and risks, since both are never far from an executive leader’s mind. Dispel the myth that “cloud is always cheaper,” and shift the focus toward the strategic benefits of cloud, such as optimized business costs and modernization.

Gartner recommends positioning cloud as a capability for platform business — which creates value through the exchange of data across networks and drives new digital revenue streams — rather than just another technology capability. Develop and communicate a business value framework for cloud, and implement a cloud adoption framework to optimize business costs and risks.

2. Mobilize and migrate

In the Gartner 2020 Cloud End-User Buying Behaviour Study, 76 per cent of respondents reported using more than one cloud provider. While this certainly opens the door to best-of-breed capabilities and more innovation, multi-cloud also brings increased security risks and operational complexity. It is imperative that CIOs balance the risks against the rewards of multi-cloud via strong decision governance, and exploration of the emerging potential of distributed cloud.

In addition, to achieve aggressive growth without compromising cloud objectives, CIOs must set clear expectations which mobilize improved cloud adoption behaviours, and track against these expectations with tangible metrics. Scaling cloud adoption is only possible if CIOs maintain strategic collaboration with business stakeholders throughout migration planning and bring in the expertise of third parties to assist. 

For example, task the cloud centre of excellence (CCOE) to drive the creation of reusable migration accelerators, such as architectural standards and best practices, and involve security experts early on to avoid unexpected delays when modernizing workloads.

Gartner recommends leveraging cloud choice to seize new opportunities and minimize complexity. Communicate migration objectives to mobilize safe and efficient cloud behaviours and accelerate pace by proactively planning for migration hurdles.

3. Govern and secure

While empowering developers and business units to innovate at a far faster speed than ever before, CIOs need to ensure that this innovation is accompanied by proper control mechanisms. For example, automation of workload placement policies and cybersecurity controls protects organizations from bill shock and security incidents.

Digital business enables real-time reaction and change in response to market events or conditions, too. CIOs must embrace these capabilities by developing automation of decision making and operational delivery, based on a standard set of policies predefined from the outset, into the operation. Vendors that offer infrastructure automation tools in this emerging market provide multi-cloud/hybrid cloud orchestration, support for immutable infrastructure and programmable infrastructure, self-service and on-demand environment creation, resource provisioning, and configuration management.

Accelerate organizational change to deliver cloud benefits by embracing a DevOps culture and introducing new skills such as site reliability engineering (SRE), or deliver rapid innovation for a cloud environment by introducing product life cycle management (PLM) methodologies.

Gartner recommends implementing strong governance and security controls as part of part of a pan-organization cloud strategy. Adapt and build governance policies through the CCOE. 

Traditional IT delivery is struggling to meet digital business requirements for agility, speed and continuous value, but cloud can truly be a business innovation platform that creates new business models. Establishing a game plan that includes the three key disciplines of strategize and innovate, mobilize and migrate, and govern and secure will enable enterprises to accelerate the business transformation journey and attain digital innovation maturity.

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Milind Govekar is a Distinguished Research Vice President at Gartner, Inc. and the Chief of Research with Gartner’s Program & Portfolio Management research practice. Gartner analysts are presenting additional insights on the latest trends in cloud, infrastructure and IT operations at the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference, taking place virtually in the Americas December 6-8.

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