There is a perception in some business sectors that cloud computing has become mainstream. After all, with franchises like Salesforce.com leading the way, didn’t all businesses long ago embrace the merits of accessing software in the cloud? The idea that cloud computing is ‘done and dusted’, however, couldn’t be further from the truth in many industries. Far from a tapped resource, cloud computing growth is actually accelerating. Driven largely by intense global regulatory reporting demands, we are seeing a shift to ‘cloud first’ across our own industry.
While numbers on cloud computing tend to vary considerably as a result of differing definitions, market research firm Gartner predicts that demand for cloud computing in all its guises will grow 18 per cent this year to $246.8 billion in total worldwide revenue from $209.2 billion.
Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in our asset servicing clients’ readiness and willingness to adopt cloud technologies, especially those delivered by external providers. The question is no longer “if” organisations are moving to the cloud, but rather how quickly can the procurement process mature to support the business, technology and operational demands.
Early cloud-based SaaS solutions were often lacking features and, if viewed critically, were offered by ‘fly-by-night’ organisations. A cloud-positive view might call them niche providers, or new market entrants. This is no longer the case. Major technology providers are increasingly cloud-first, or even cloud-only. The best technology solutions, for many use-cases, are available online as a service.
Whether your organisation is looking to take advantage of the most current features of technology, needs to collaborate on business processes across the globe, reduce the complexity of on premise infrastructure, or gain true cost-effective elasticity, the only place to look is in the cloud.
The importance of seamless releases
Internal development is complicated and complex. Internal-build projects and their corresponding support costs rarely ever decrease or even stay the same over the usable life of a solution. Significant upfront investment in data centres, networks, servers, storage, and operating systems are required when running even the most trivial of enterprise software. And those costs don’t evaporate when migrating to a new solution. Alternatively, cloud-based SaaS is typically pay-for-what-you-use. When you stop using it, you no longer have to pay for it.
In the world of regulatory reporting, change is a constant. Change is something that should be planned for, but in reality is very difficult to do when considering on premise or internally-developed technology solutions. It requires budget, effort, and significant preparation. It is very hard for any organisation to keep pace with the constant changes put forward by regulators, let alone the demand for upgrades, security patches, and enhancements.
What the regulator deems a minor change, may in practice require months of costly development, data routine changes, new user-interfaces, and testing. All this needs done concurrently with current reporting obligations; and oh yeah, the upgrade and transition needs to be seamless on the go-live date. Because of this, we see a lot of technology that is badly out-of-date because updates are too expensive or difficult. It becomes easier to maintain the business process “offline”, and that “I’ll do it offline” mentality gains momentum, becoming the department zeitgeist. All the while, the technology is still being paid for, and nobody is using it.
Most public cloud services are delivered with a constant stream of updates. Here at Confluence, we deploy seamless releases each month with new features, fixes, and improvements. We offer to maintain the regulatory disclosures for minor regulatory changes imposed by a regulatory agency, and we handle the platform and technology update processes. For clients consuming this software as a service, this is included in the cost. Much of the responsibility of cost-effectively supporting changes falls onto the provider. For most changes, clients do not need to create project teams with incremental phases, to hire external consultants, purchase hardware, plan roll-backs, update internal systems, migrate data, or any of the other classic challenges necessary to get the benefits of the latest technology. Continuous improvement is delivered without continuous effort, or additional spend.
These technical, business, operational, and financial advantages are driving clients to rapidly adopt this new way of buying and consuming enterprise technology. But with the benefits, there are still challenges in the cloud-computing environment limiting the transition to the cloud, most notably the struggle some have with the idea of subscribing to a service, rather than buying a piece of software. Moving from a client-server infrastructure model to a SaaS-model requires a re-visioning of roles and responsibilities. Defining who is responsible for what, where vendor support starts and ends, and what staff be responsible for, is an ongoing challenge.
The Service Level Agreements (SLAs) also need to change with the technology, and the devil is in the details. The procurement and contracting staff at both parties need to be ready with updated ways of approaching SLAs. With internal IT models that are still set up around the client-server model, it becomes vitally important to define the vendor, staff, application support, and infrastructure support responsibilities. When something goes wrong, who is responsible for it?
The SLAs need to be resolved up front, without mitigating all of the real-life benefits of cloud adoption in the first place. Taking full and rapid advantage of cloud technologies, even instituting your own cloud-first policy, requires integrating not just the technology and business teams, but the procurement, legal, and contract staff as well. This enables organisations to achieve the goals they set: focus on their core business and spend less time and expense buying, using, maintaining, and improving software.
Tom Pfister, Global Head of Regulatory Reporting Solutions, Confluence
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