How will cloud use change post-pandemic?
Wed 3 Mar 2021 | Richard Blanford
Fordway’s Richard Blanford explores how companies will shore up cloud strategies as they emerge from the pandemic
Last year’s enforced move to remote working led to a massive increase in the use of cloud services. These have rapidly become part of most organisations’ way of working, and I’m confident that demand for all forms of cloud will continue to grow when more employees are able to return to the office, albeit part time for many. This is borne out by analyst predictions: Gartner, for example, predict that global spending on public cloud services will increase by 18.4% in 2021 alone.
The more interesting question is exactly what cloud services will fuel this growth. Ubiquitous access is just one of cloud’s many advantages. It is ideal for today’s unpredictable business climate, enabling organisations to get services to market quickly, and to scale them up and down to suit changing demand without incurring capital costs. It also frees up in-house time and resources for other projects, although there will still be a need to manage costs and to monitor performance against SLAs to ensure cloud providers are delivering the promised service.
New service digitalisation opportunities
Much of the increased use of cloud during the pandemic has been in enabling communications and providing office productivity tools. However, cloud can and should also drive new service digitisation opportunities, enabling organisations to turn their core business processes into something that can be delivered digitally. Examples range from pivoting from bricks and mortar-based services (such as retail and restaurants) to digital sales to enabling community health workers to access services on the move, as we have done for Bristol Community Health.
The key point for organisations to realise is that what most have done so far is to move relatively straightforward applications to SaaS. The services that remain are those which will need ‘heavy lifting’. They typically include both bespoke applications developed in-house and customised applications such as ERP systems where the software provider’s SaaS offering, if available, either cannot accept the customisations, or the cost, complexity and timescales to implement them cannot be justified.
So the question becomes whether to continue until the cost of maintenance becomes prohibitive, to use whatever SaaS service is available with limited customisation, or to move legacy applications into a managed cloud service in the short term while developing or implementing a digital solution. Gloucester City Homes moved services into public cloud wherever possible but are using managed cloud for their legacy applications so they can benefit from cloud’s flexibility and scalability while they continue their digital transformation.
It’s important to understand that in order to get to cloud, costs will necessarily increase before they reduce. We developed our Service Now solution to provide a better experience for customers working with our Service Desk, introducing services such as reporting online. However, we first had to customise the application to meet our requirements, which required time and budget.
The need for speed
One of the major successes of the last 12 months has been how quickly IT teams responded to the challenge of moving employees to remote working. One of our customers, an NHS Trust, needed a quick and affordable remote working solution for non-clinical staff. We repurposed servers from another project at the Trust and designed and implemented a solution in less than three weeks with capacity for several thousand users.
Now organisations have seen how quickly solutions can be implemented when they really have to be, I believe this will drive senior management to press for change and for IT – particularly cloud – to be implemented faster than IT teams have traditionally delivered it. However, this has also removed many of the cultural barriers to cloud which previously hindered progress, so IT teams will be able to make much faster progress.
Tackling compliance and security risks
The third area where I expect to see change is compliance. Businesses need to ensure that, in the rush to transform and keep working by implementing cloud services at short notice, they have not exposed themselves to undue risk. So we can expect growing demand for the services to tackle the associated compliance, security and authentication issues associated with cloud.
Organisations need to ensure they have policies and processes that will provide assurance that data is secure, maintain customer trust and protect their reputation. These should be integrated across all channels to ensure nothing slips through the gaps
They first need to understand the risks that digital working brings, so they can then implement systems and processes that enable them to actively manage these risks without restricting innovation and collaboration. Being too averse to risk can be extremely costly, but too few controls can put an organisation’s very future in jeopardy.
Organisations should begin by assessing the potential impact of the information security (and other) risks they face by understanding their Risk Appetite. This will enable them to incorporate appropriate, tailored risk management into governance and compliance, aligning with best practice and international standards.
A positive future
Cloud has been one of the few success stories of the last 12 months. It was well engineered to cope with flexible working and will continue to drive new working practices as some of us return to our offices. The main limit on what can be achieved is how innovative organisations can be! However, they need to ensure that they address the governance and authentication issues to keep data and staff secure. This means applying appropriate due diligence to ensure that what the supplier provides is secure, and remembering that whichever version of cloud they choose, the security of their data remains their responsibility.