Harnessing cloud to drive business innovation, reinvention and growth

A classic red car driving into cloud.
Harnessing cloud to drive business innovation, reinvention and growth
Emma Roscow is cloud infrastructure engineering lead at Accenture UK & Ireland.

Spending on cloud is set to surpass the enormous milestone of $1 trillion in just a few years, as organisations continue to rush to migrate more and more workloads. However, many are falling into the trap of treating it as a one-time exercise – or worse, a cheaper data warehouse. With this mindset, the excitement of working with a shiny new cloud platform becomes a moment which is quickly forgotten.

This mindset is costing organisations more than just a lot of time and effort. Accenture’s latest research found that those treating cloud migration as a one-time, cost-saving exercise are putting themselves at a significant competitive disadvantage. This is because cloud is much more than just scalable infrastructure. It brings together everything a business needs to innovate – data, people, partners, processes and technology. Teams can create new products, services and experiences for their customers, and cloud’s flexibility enables businesses to experiment much more easily.

You wouldn’t buy a new car and just leave it parked on the driveway; its purpose is to take you on a journey. Yet that’s what many businesses are effectively doing, whilst others are out exploring and seeing where it can take them. What are these companies doing differently? Although the IT team may be steering, they’re getting everyone on board and using the new tools at their fingertips to innovate their business, reinvent their processes and ultimately create growth.

Passing your theory test

Whether you’re at the start of a cloud migration journey or in the thick of it, to shift your mindset towards cloud it’s important to keep these four principles in mind:

1. Know where you want the cloud to take you: COVID-19 has given technology leaders a seat at the table. Technology and business strategy are becoming one and the same, so develop a cloud strategy with a clear vision of the business’ aspirations. Understand where your strengths are versus competitors and factor in the evolution of the cloud itself. With hyperscaler providers competing for customers, new cloud applications are released every day. Consider setting up a Cloud Centre of Excellence (CoE), a dedicated team that combines technical and business expertise to assess the potential of each new release.

2. The cloud must support and augment your technologies: Innovation cannot be on the shoulders of the IT team. Organisations must match their adoption of the cloud with internal practices to ensure non-technology areas change at the same pace. Essentially, optimising the cloud relies on a complete culture change, helping people understand the speed at which the business can now bring new ideas or services to market, optimise for hybrid working, or improve back and front office efficiency.

3. Push innovation to deliver exceptional experiences: The most successful companies focus on using cloud to transform the experience for their customers, partners and employees. With customer expectations higher than ever, this goal should stay front of mind.

4. Commit to the cloud: Business leaders must recognise and educate employees on the continued process with embracing the cloud. The business as a whole must commit to keeping up to date with best practices and maintain a culture of continuous learning.

Driving to your destination

Once you know where you want the cloud to take your business, you’re ready to dive into the mechanics of just how it can take you there. These are just a few possibilities:

· Data and AI: Cloud lets you bring much more data together, including highly valuable unstructured or unlabelled data that was previously locked away or hard to use. For example, unstructured notes from call centre interactions. Cloud’s ability to scale up and down also means it’s much more efficient to run AI models that require intense bursts of compute power. Thanks to the huge array of hyperscaler services now available, you don’t need deep data science expertise to do this.

· Edge Computing: Connected devices create huge potential for cloud-based innovation – whether it’s machinery components, manufacturing production lines, medical devices, logistics and supply chain nodes, retail stores, or anything else imaginable. By carrying out compute on the device where the data resides, rather than the cloud, edge computing promises unparalleled data control and security, with the lower latency and higher reliability needed enabling “always on” applications.

· Collaborative innovation: Innovation in the cloud isn’t only about what your own organisation does. The ease with which new services can be adopted in the cloud— from your chosen hyperscaler as well as third parties—means you have a fast and low-risk way to benefit from others’ innovation with cutting-edge technology.

One company that has shown how much can be achieved when you put this into practise is Carlsberg. In 2016, the brewer launched a project to transition 100% of its global process workloads to the cloud. Since, it has created innovations including a “connected bar” fitted with IoT sensors to gauge real-time consumption and link directly with marketing campaigns and a “smart brewery” using IoT sensors to identify problems during the production process and automatically issue maintenance requests. Thanks to cloud’s agility, it is now launching new initiatives and campaigns in hours, rather than months.

Those that stop seeing their migration to the cloud as a one-time IT project and educate their entire organisation to start using it as an enabler of business growth will certainly see the rewards. As our latest research found, these leaders aim to achieve more operational and financial goals, including targeting up to 50% more business measures, such as increasing customers and going to market faster than their peers. And they even end up with greater cost savings as a result too – leaders achieved between 1.2x (North America) and 2.7x (Europe) greater cost reduction than organisations focused mainly on data migration.

However, there’s no use arriving at your destination and then forgetting to lock-up when you’re there. The final part of this series will explore how to secure the cloud against a rising tide of threats.

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