Best practices to leverage opportunities and overcome pitfalls of a hybrid workforce in a multi-cloud environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen lockdowns and social-distancing measures leading to the implementation of work-from-home initiatives and, with some easing of these measures, hybrid workforces.

Such rapid developments have also redefined the role of IT in businesses, accelerating digital transformation in many organizations. Due to the crisis, technology, systems and IT employees have had to adapt quickly to rapidly changing business circumstances.

The change in the way people work and the technologies they are using, along with unpredictable business conditions throughout the world, has led to shifting priorities and expectations for IT departments.

One key area being looked into is the multi-cloud strategy underpinning the digital business transformation journey. DigiconAsia sought some insights into the potentials and pitfalls organizations could encounter amid these changes, and best practices to smoothen the journey, from Sandeep Bhargava, Managing Director of Asia Pacific Japan (APJ), Rackspace Technology.

The hybrid workplace will be a norm in the region and globally. What does this mean for organizations in the long term and how can they better strategize to cope with this reality?

Sandeep: The COVID-19 crisis is bringing the digital workforce to preeminence as businesses seriously consider how to optimize their operations while finding new and meaningful ways to engage with their customers.

However, in the transition period, many challenges related to remote work capabilities surfaced all at once, adding heavy loads to system resources and further stretching already-lean IT teams. What this means is that business and IT leaders must set priorities and take into account the following concerns.

A. Security

With more people working remotely, the increase in intrusion vectors is opening more opportunities for attack. The addition of BYOD and IoT devices to existing hardware resources makes it even more difficult for businesses to stay ahead of cybersecurity challenges. Data and applications previously protected by networks and processes are now dispersed, requiring new approaches to protection. Organisations need to stay protected against phishing, ransomware, malware and other forms of cyberattacks targeting vulnerable organisations.

B. Ensure infrastructure readiness

Almost overnight, many organisations had to convert their workspaces from physical to digital in order to accommodate social distancing guidelines. IT teams had to quickly address legacy systems and outdated processes to get solutions up and running and avoid major productivity issues. This conversion involved the selection of the right tools and implementation of security protocols to ensure that remote solutions can support workloads just as smoothly as the solutions that were used on-site.  For companies that did not have a remote strategy in place, this shift has been particularly difficult.

C. Managing teams

New working styles and their knock-on effect on teamwork, innovation and drive are raising concerns among business leaders. The management team including the CEO need to work closely with the CTO and CIO and develop a long term sustainable plan that will allow collaboration and productivity.

The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation (DX) for many organisations and IT teams can’t help but scramble within a short period of time. What can be done to avoid potential pitfalls when making these business and IT decisions?

Sandeep: Many of the digital transformation (DX) initiatives implemented before the outbreak were instrumental in helping enterprises across industries stay resilient and agile in these testing times. 

At emergency times like this, organisations realize they cannot afford to halt digital transformation projects, or they risk not being agile enough during the next crisis and delivering poor customer experiences. Many executives are currently safeguarding their projects by leveraging low-code cloud solutions that will identify process bottlenecks, power automation, and infuse AI.

The shift to remote working is revealing gaps in IT infrastructure, workforce planning and digital upskilling. As businesses embark on digital transformation, IT leaders must drive transformative and optimisation opportunities with a digital strategy based on the cloud driving the growth of the business. Executives, managers and IT leaders need to adopt an enabling mindset. While infrastructure and technology are clearly important considerations, digital transformation is about the people and how they approach change. Many organisations fail to cultivate the necessary cultural shift needed to change the mindset of workers.

EY’s Global Risk Survey 2020, found that the majority of businesses do not possess the capabilities required to effectively and safely navigate crisis periods, as 79% of board members state that their organisations are not very well prepared to deal with a crisis event. Organisations also need to build a crisis management team of key decision-makers, not limited only to the company’s leadership, but also including representatives from at least the strategy, operations, HR, communications and corporate affairs functions to decide on IT initiatives to help employees with efficient remote working.

This team should be empowered to make and implement decisions quickly. Incident response should be a deliberate and structured process, free of any knee-jerk reactions and delays and not dictated by outside factors.

Organisations are starting to realize the potential – and also emerging problems – as they implement multi-cloud strategy. How can the potential be maximised while avoiding the problems?

Sandeep: In South-east Asia, the cloud computing market revenue is estimated to reach US$40.32 billion by 2025. Multi-cloud will become the preferred IT foundation for more organisations in South East Asia as they seek strategy to become more agile to keep up with digital disruption.

Organisations need the confidence to know they’re getting maximum value from their cloud investments and minimising risk while accelerating their transformations. With the explosion of cloud applications and the rise of hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures, complexity has begun to overwhelm many organisations. Here are three main challenges that hinder progress to such a transformation and which organisations need to overcome:

1. Complex applications and infrastructure that are difficult to integrate with the latest technologies including migration to the cloud

2. Managing multi and hybrid cloud environments and spend

3. A lack of experience and resources

Businesses want a single view of their usage levels and cost regardless of the number of cloud platforms used. This is so that they can determine if they are getting the optimal return-on-investment for their spending – and keep an eye on their operating expenses.

To minimise cloud risks, organisations also need to have a multi-layered security across on-premise and multiple clouds strategy to provide detection, response and remediation. Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) will also need to work across more departments to ensure that security is not overlooked when innovative solutions and new business processes are introduced.

Please share some best strategy for organisations implementing multi-cloud solutions.

Sandeep: The chief information officers (CIOs) are facing the challenge of bringing order to the multi-cloud environment and to develop an effective strategy to understand and manage the mix of cloud resources upon which their businesses depend.

The CIO’s main task is surely to identify which clouds offer innovation and agility, which workloads are best suited for public cloud and which workloads are better run in a private cloud. Beyond that, they should be planning benchmarking and price comparisons and assessing flexibility according to workload need.

In an environment where companies are being constantly targeted with persistent advanced threats, it would be helpful for CIOs to engage with a managed services provider such as Rackspace Technology, to manage their data and applications across cloud, applications, security, data and infrastructure.

1. Have a clear goal in mind

With a wide range of choices, organisations need to carefully select the right cloud platform and tools for different workloads instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach to cloud deployment. To optimise return on cloud investments, technology leaders must take a customised approach to accelerate the value and strategy of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud as it relates to their desired business outcomes.

Technology decision-makers should have a holistic view of the business and technology requirements when they define a hybrid cloud strategy.  

2. Having a Managed Service Provider

Working with a managed services provider will help organisations benefit from greater operational simplicity, better support, reduced costs and improved cloud security while adopting and deploying single and multiple-cloud and solutions. This can help align business objectives with the appropriate architecture to deliver better cloud-native enablement, data modernisation and cloud optimisation for the organisation.