The cloud shift is now

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Recent predictions state that by 2025, 80 per cent of IT resources will be spent on innovation. This means that the cloud will have an even more significant impact on IT than it already does today. Although many IT professionals, like myself, look forward to that day, do we really have to wait till 2025 to reap the benefits of a cloud shift? Thankfully, the answer is “no.” 

New survey data from ServiceNow found that more than half of enterprises have already entered the cloud-first era, moving away from on-premises data centres and turning to the cloud to host new business applications and services. Furthermore, 77 per cent of enterprises expect to complete this shift to cloud-first within the next two years. The evidence is all there: the cloud shift is happening, and it is happening now.

The driving force behind this shift is, to a great extent, the rise of the DevOps, according to the same survey. In fact, 76 per cent of respondents chose DevOps as the primary driver of the shift to a cloud-first world. Enterprises that embraced DevOps saw early that cloud computing could accelerate the pace of application deployment. And it’s not just developers who have embraced DevOps. Nearly every respondent in the survey, which included IT, DevOps and line of business managers, reported that they are involved in some way with the DevOps movement. 

The cloud tipping point has already been reached with DevOps leading the way, and the implications for IT are many. Some have wondered whether a cloud-first world still needs IT; however, progressive CIOs have stated that the obsolescence of IT stems from fear of the unknown, and that forward-looking companies are finding that, far from becoming irrelevant, the importance of IT has actually increased. Over three quarters of enterprises that are already cloud-first have said their cloud-first shift made IT more relevant to the business.

The risk for IT is not that it will become irrelevant, but rather that IT professionals aren’t catching up with digital transformation fast enough. In fact, an overwhelming 9 out of 10 of the cloud-first enterprises surveyed also said their current IT staff didn’t have the skills to make this shift. In other words, they weren’t ready.

To help solve this problem, there are a few areas that CIOs and their IT staff must prioritise when preparing to go cloud-first. I’ve listed the key ones below:

Remove the fear and anxiety 

Fear is a major barrier in adopting anything new. CIOs may see the value in migrating thousands of applications to the cloud in the next two years, but it is a stressful and time-consuming project for the IT workforce – who are also worried about their future job security. As CIO, you’re responsible for reassuring the IT team and addressing the fear of becoming redundant to get them on board with the innovation opportunity that cloud-first allows. Show your team that your organisation’s cloud-first initiative has the appropriate resources to successfully execute the strategy, and a plan for the new role of IT as innovators moving forward. 

Focus on a cohesive cloud strategy that drives business outcomes 

“Why are we moving to the cloud?” should be the first question asked before the adoption. The answer to this can then be used as the foundation for the cloud strategy. Cloud adoption success needs to be defined around business outcomes, and CIOs need to be the leaders on this. Business outcomes that you want to influence need to be identified a priority. 

Alongside this, it helps to have business-focused roles in IT that can work with the stakeholders to highlight how a cloud-first approach can meet desired business outcomes. This enhances communication with business leaders and helps them understand. IT really has to align the cloud strategy of the business in order to be seen as an effective and worthwhile tool within the enterprise.

If you’re going to do it, do it now, and fast

Very often we find that individual sections of a business have been moving applications to the cloud to speed up a particular process or automate a complicated workflow. However, this is rarely part of a cloud strategy, and is done in isolation. Inching into cloud one by one will not radically change IT resources towards innovation. Instead, IT needs to jump into cloud-first with a dedicated team whose sole focus is on getting the entire enterprise to the cloud quickly and securely.

Take control and gain visibility

Most cloud projects will still initiate from the bottom-up, making it very difficult for IT to exercise control and achieve security, compliance, performance, and reliability. CIOs will need to develop strategies to achieve these enterprise goals from a position of less control. 

It takes a strategic IT partner to ensure the organisation achieves the desired results from cloud adoption. With the cloud shift, IT job roles will change and this may make some feel uncomfortable. IT moves from builders of computing infrastructure to brokers of cloud services that must drive business outcomes. When everything was based in the data centre, you had visibility into your computing environment and its costs. Now, you’re managing consumption-model solutions with an array of pricing options, discounts, and service-level guarantees. You have to deal with more vendors that will come and go more quickly than you’re used to. And you have to do all of this from an obstructed vantage point. 

This makes achieving a 360-degree of visibility, including all cloud-based services and applications, IT’s top priority. To achieve this, it is necessary to invest in solutions that enable IT to extend visibility and consolidate business data, such as Service Integration and Management (SIAM) and IT Business Management (ITBM). By doing so, you can optimise your resources to launch new services more quickly and focus on innovation to deliver increased value to the business. 

Moving to a cloud-first world, changes just about everything. It is the present and future, and must be embraced by IT. If you’re not on board today, you’re already yesterday’s IT department and allowing your company to become yesterday’s company. Which is why the time to become your enterprise’s strategic partner in the cloud shift is now.

Chris Pope, VP of Innovation, ServiceNow
Image Credit: TZIDO SUN / Shutterstock