Accelerating digital transformation to cope with the pandemic has brought to the surface some key challenges in current cloud strategies.

The world recently marked the first anniversary of the COVID-19, a pandemic that some have claimed to be the main reason for rapid advances in digital transformation across organizations across the globe.

Supporting nearly any transformation project has been the cloud. However, history has shown that not all enterprises have managed to reap the rewards of the cloud, with an Accenture study noting that less than half were very satisfied with the results of their cloud implementation – even before Covid-19 hit.

DigiconAsia discussed some current cloud strategies with Tejas Patel, Managing Director, Technology Strategy & Advisory, Growth Markets, Accenture:

Tejas Patel
Managing Director,
Technology Strategy & Advisory,
Growth Markets, Accenture

Rapid digital transformation has been taking place among organizations over the last one year. In your opinion, how significant a role did the COVID-19 pandemic play in accelerating digital transformation?

While cloud technology is not new, COVID-19 has truly underscored its importance. When the livelihoods and safety of people were threatened, many organizations had to stop and consider what sort of changes could be made to safeguard staff and their bottom line. This urgency has quickened the implementation of highly creative cloud solutions and helped slash through red tape.

Without adequate cloud deployment, firms would not have been able to implement wide-ranging remote work arrangements and governments would have struggled to provide critical services to their residents. In fact, the necessity to innovate quickly due to the pandemic has put many organizations anywhere between 3 to 5 years ahead of the usual innovation schedule.

Beyond the cloud, other technologies that support digital transformation have also seen accelerated adoption such as IoT, machine learning, and AI. But these are all technologies that are supported by a common thread – the cloud.

How core have cloud strategies been in Asia Pacific during the COVID-19 pandemic? Why or why not?

Before COVID-19 hit, there were already a number of organizations across Asia that had fairly strategic approaches to cloud adoption and implementation. But most had yet to fully outline their cloud strategies. According to our research, about two thirds of firms had yet to achieve the cloud benefits they expected. This was across four categories: cost, speed to market, business enablement, and service levels.

Leveraging cloud strategies was key over the past year, largely due to how reliant most digital transformation projects and technologies are on the cloud.

When the pandemic first struck, firms that were still at the nascent stages of implementing a full cloud strategy would have had to expand their cloud infrastructure relatively quickly to achieve the business enablement scenarios they needed. There would have been a level of strategizing and planning involved, but a core focus would have been speed of deployment to ensure that they were able to provide resources for remote work models.

This means that end-to-end cloud strategies might not have been fully formed right from the get-go. But now that we are well into the pandemic and it seems likely that the “new normal” will not revert to the models seen pre-COVID-19, there is going to be increased interest in getting the most value out of cloud deployments. Making sure cloud strategies used are fit for purpose will be key.

As cloud computing matures and evolves, hybrid cloud strategies seem to be predominant today. Does a hybrid cloud work for all organizations? In what business situations do public, private and hybrid cloud strategies work best respectively?

Which cloud strategy is best would depend on each organization’s business needs and goals. Although adopting a hybrid model does offer several compelling advantages, it is never a one-size-fits-all solution.

And while we typically do see cloud strategies as being divided into public, private and hybrid, we are occasionally seeing a multi-cloud environment being leveraged – somewhat similar to a hybrid cloud environment but using multiple public clouds to host data and applications versus combining private and public clouds.

Across APAC, the public cloud model is probably the most dominant cloud model at the moment due to ease of use, and lower initial investment required. A fully public cloud model is also great if internal resources are limited.

Private clouds still make a lot of sense for firms operating with strict compliance and security requirements. This includes the likes of financial institutes or government agencies. Beyond the added privacy and security, leveraging a private cloud also means one has more flexibility in customizing the environment to specific requirements. Private clouds also tend to handle bandwidth-intensive applications better as they are processed on-premise which means lower latencies and a better performance.

The hybrid model is theoretically a best of both worlds approach that combines the advantages of private and public cloud environments. This is usually the optimal approach except in situations where security requirements do not allow for it, or if budgets and internal IT resources are limited.

Edge computing is also an option for applications that require reduced latency and bandwidth usage. 

With digital transformation founded on the cloud a critical key to business continuity and resilience – to survive and thrive in the new reality – what advice do you have for organizations in the region adapting their cloud strategies to their transformation journey?

Obtaining success with regards to cloud adoption goes beyond just technology. It may even require a fundamental shift in how a business gets work done. For firms to optimize their transformation journey there are four key areas that they should be looking at:

  • Identifying the business needs of the organization and anchoring a cloud strategy to meet these goals that is focused on maximizing business value.
  • Managing the culture of the firm and equipping staff with new operating best practices and skillsets to allow them to adapt to working in a “cloud-first” environment.
  • Looking towards unlocking greater value from data and intelligence that may be trapped within legacy systems This can be done through the use of cloud data models.
  • Finally, it is critical that firms leverage the skills and expertise of their cloud partners. Leaning on them for help can augment the firm’s owned capabilities. For example, many organizations in APAC look towards using cloud managed services to ensure they have access to the right skills throughout their cloud journey while maintaining cost efficiency.

Ultimately, firms must adopt what are fundamentally new ways of working, adopt new operating models, and develop new skills and roles to become “cloud-first” organizations that can innovate faster, and create differentiated and sustained value through their cloud deployments.