"What does the cloud mean to you?" Being in a role and from an industry where buzzwords surround you like flies on a hot summer day, one of my favorite pastimes is ‘de-buzzing’ buzzwords. So, in all my travels and interactions with IT and business practitioners and leaders, I make it a point to slip in the seemingly innocuous question: "What does the cloud mean to you?" The range of responses is quite large, and it is rare to find a group of people with a similar view on what the cloud is, but the gist of what I hear is: the cloud is a technology platform which allows businesses to run certain applications in a cheaper, faster, and more efficient manner.
It is that. But let me posit an argument that potentially allows us to view cloud computing from a different perspective — and potentially elevate it beyond the label of a ‘buzzword.’
The more we work with customers, putting in place cloud architectures, building cloud applications, and migrating applications to cloud platforms, I find myself developing a renewed respect for the cloud platforms— something that goes beyond it being a buzzword or a “top priority for CIOs.” While the technology is great, and it allows businesses to do great things, the cloud is bringing about a slow-yet-steady change in the way enterprises view their own existence, in terms of how they operate currently, how they plan to grow in the next three-five years, which products they want to release, how they plan to expand globally, or what is their strategy for moving into adjacent markets. This is the stuff enterprises think about, plan, and strategize to grow and thrive. The difference is now they are viewing all this with a cloud state of mind. While this sounds like another ‘buzzphrase,’ it is much more than that. Let me illustrate with a few examples.
One of our customers is a leading Telco in the US. Theirs is a story of how digital technologies and modern application tools and techniques can provide cloud platforms that enables speed, agility, and the ability to innovate with minimal risk. While this is a poster child for digital transformation, it is easy to ignore what the foundation of that transformation was. It was the cloud. The cloud was not an afterthought or something our customer built in to save cost. It was the very basis of their business and technology strategy. They decided to embrace the principles and challenges of being cloud-native at the core to truly enter a cloud state of mind. It was like, "Now that we have decided to become cloud-native, let's plan what to do next." While their business growth story of how they launched new products and services at a fraction of the time their competition could is much lauded. The underlying theme of cloud nativity and adoption is a real indicator of a company taking a fresh perspective on strategies to effectively disrupt their competition.
Another example is that of a leading packaging company based out of Australia. Since being established in 2002, they have grown through a steady stream of acquisitions to become a leading player in the segment. And since they went public, the company strategy was on enhancing ‘total shareholder value’ by focusing across three axes — successfully integrating mergers and acquisitions, protecting organic growth, and creating operational efficiency. Where do cloud applications feature in all this, you ask. Well, to do all of the above, the business and IT leadership took a conscious decision to build out greenfield IT capability to support the company's growth strategy — on a foundation of the cloud. Today, with 70% of their services running on the public cloud and its variants (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS), they no longer focus on scalability or availability of IT resources to support business ventures. They focus on service outcomes. This is what a cloud state of mind does. And before I forget: the current size of their internal IT team? Four.
Let me now summarize my thoughts about a cloud state of mind. When IT and business leaders are able to plan and execute their business growth strategies with the cloud as a permanent and nonnegotiable component, they have achieved a cloud state of mind. How does one get there? While that is a topic for my next blog post, here's a sneak peek. It begins with a commitment to embrace the principles and benefits of cloud computing, followed by a phased strategy to migrate, rebuild, and build on cloud-native platforms and eventually transition to a service-oriented enterprise. The time for experimentation with the cloud is over. Enterprises who adopt a cloud state of mind will grow faster and withstand the tests of time better. The question is — are you there yet?