For any business, migrating to the cloud is an essential step in the digitization journey. The baseline cloud benefits, such as reduced costs, greater efficiency and enhanced customer service, are important objectives to strive for, of course. The latter is especially attractive to consumer products and services companies. But there are many considerations, in addition to the benefits, that businesses must keep in mind when shifting to the cloud if they are serious about achieving true digital transformation.
To begin with, companies must have a thoughtful — and even an aspirational — strategy behind any cloud migration project if they are to realize measurable value from it. Protiviti’s white paper, Cloud Adoption: Putting the Cloud at the Heart of Business and IT Strategy, emphasizes this key point: Executives need to recognize cloud adoption as a strategic business issue, not an IT issue. To ensure that such a move will enable true business and IT transformation, executives must have clarity on what they expect the cloud to accomplish for the organization. They also need to understand their digitization priorities within their specific industry and regulatory contexts.
Consumer products and services companies leading the cloud race
Cloud adoption is accelerating across all industries, but for consumer products and services companies the pace is quicker. According to Protiviti’s latest annual Technology Trends and Benchmark Study, nearly two in three companies today are now focused on investing in cloud adoption. For consumer products and retail companies that participated in the study, that number is 80 percent. These businesses also reported that they are currently focusing on and investing in digitization.
Interestingly, despite being on the forefront of cloud adoption, consumer products and services companies don’t appear to be overly concerned about risks that may accompany such a dramatic move. Executives from these businesses who responded to the Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2017 survey from Protiviti and North Carolina State University’s ERM Initiative did not cite the following as a top five risk for their industry, even though it was fourth on the overall list of top risks in the survey:
Rapid speed of disruptive innovations and/or new technologies may outpace our organization’s ability to compete and/or manage the risk appropriately, without making significant changes to our business model.
On the surface, this finding seems positive: Consumer products and services companies believe they have a handle on this top risk. However, it might also be a signal of overconfidence. And overconfidence is a risk in and of itself, and could potentially undermine the success of any digital project. To help those feeling confident test their preparedness, a recent issue of The Bulletin suggests that executives ask themselves the following questions:
- Directionally, do we know as an organization where we’re going and why?
- Are we prepared for the journey we are undertaking?
- Do we possess the ability, will and discipline to cope with change along the way?
Pondering these questions can help organizational leaders think more critically about their goals, the risks associated with the changes they want to undertake, and whether they fit within the risk appetite of the company. Answering these questions will also help them to think more critically about what to move the cloud, how and when, to realize the most value for the company.
For example, back-office operations are often overlooked as potential candidates for cloud migration in favor of more customer-facing functions. This oversight could result in the business missing out on some significant benefits, like building greater resiliency into its core operations. The inverse is another common mistake: Rushing to migrate a back-office function and then realizing, too late, that the legacy technology supporting it can’t be cloud-enabled. Yet another pitfall is jumping on the cloud bandwagon before properly considering privacy, security or compliance issues.
Even more questions to consider
In addition to the “soul-searching” questions above, organizations should seek to answer some other key questions to help them develop their cloud strategy:
- Why should we adopt the cloud?
- What are the business needs, and what are the outcomes we expect?
- What are the use cases?
- What portions of the business should we move to the cloud, how, and when?
- Which cloud model is most appropriate for this initiative and for our organization (e.g., private, public, hybrid, or multi-cloud)?
- What is the economic and operational value proposition?
- How would this project impact IT’s approach to its current business model?
- What vendors should we work with?
The bottom line of this discussion can be summed up in a word: preparation. Well-placed confidence, clear business-driven goals and a well-thought-out strategy will position organizations to execute their cloud migration project successfully, achieve the desired value from them, and be another step ahead in their digital transformation journey.