Becoming Cloud-Smart: The C-Suite’s Role

Strategies for Integrating Cloud into Business Operations

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Most business leaders today will tell you they embrace the cloud. But unless they develop an overarching vision for incorporating it, they will not be able to reap the full benefits of cloud or take advantage of important emerging technologies.

“Many companies say, ‘We’re a cloud-first organization,’ but that’s really an intent not a strategy.  A strategy needs to explicitly define how they are going to apply “cloud” to best execute on business objectives”,” said Denis Berry, Principal and CIO Advisory Lead at KPMG.

Becoming a “cloud-smart” organization—one in which the cloud is an integral part of all business operations and services—doesn’t happen overnight. It requires sustained commitment and coordination of the full team of C-suite leaders, particularly the CEO, the CIO, CISO the CTO, and the CDO (chief data officer). Here are some of the things today’s leaders should be doing to make their organizations succeed in an increasingly cloud-based world.

Be Inspired Leaders

Leaders need to start with their own education, Berry said. They must understand specific benefits the cloud can bring to the organization and keep current with new technologies as they evolve.  Leaders need to think holistically about the cloud options – IaaS, PaaS and SaaS – and decide when to leverage and be clear on the desired business outcomes.  For example - is IaaS the approach to pay off tech debt and exit their data center; is PaaS going to be utilized to gain efficiencies and insights across platforms; and/or will SaaS be used to leverage market services out of the box.  They then need to create a cloud roadmap, revisit and revise it frequently, and—critically—ensure that business units follow through with implementation.

Leaders need to advocate cloud-first but be clear that it does not mean moving everything to the cloud. Transporting all data, for example, would be prohibitively costly for most companies.  Instead, organizations should develop a rationale for moving legacy apps. “It’s about shoring up a foundation to build on. Simply moving legacy solutions to a cloud environment doesn’t allow you to reap the advantages of your cloud strategy,” Berry said.

“One major reason digital transformation fails is that organizations lack solid executive sponsorship and mischaracterize it as a technology implementation,” Berry said. A frequently asked question from non-technology executives is “We implemented cloud, why aren’t we seeing a change in the business?” To succeed, the C-suite must not only embrace the cloud themselves, but inspire others to stretch boundaries.

Lay the Groundwork for Emerging Technology

To gear up for success, companies must modernize their current IT architecture. “Emerging technologies like AI and blockchain, are almost exclusively delivered through the cloud and technologies like 5G will only increase the efficiency and speed of cloud computing services,” Berry said.

“It’s about the art of the possible,” Berry said. “Leaders need to talk to business managers and explain, ‘Here’s what modern technologies like AI or blockchain can do for you,’ How can we use ML/AI to answer many of the help desk calls, monitor IT operations, review security, optimize business processes.  How to we bring new solutions to market quicker though the use of modern development tools and processes?  Where would blockchain advantage us versus our competitors?

Find the Right Talent

As they push forward with new technologies, organizations will need different skills. Sixty-seven percent of organizations struggle to find the technology skills they need, particularly in data analytics, cybersecurity, and AI, according to the 2019 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey.

“It’s the problem of our times,” Berry said. “Even in our post-Covid, high unemployment environment, there is zero unemployment for these roles.”

Businesses can develop talent in-house through job shadowing and structured training from vendors. They must also be open to renting resources to mitigate risks during ongoing digital transformation. For some of the most coveted roles such as cloud architects, full stack developers, cloud engineers, site reliability engineers they will need to budget to secure pricey top talent.

In their zeal to find top skills, organizations must not neglect the importance of cultural fit, Berry cautioned. That may require revamping the traditional interview process, but not doing so jeopardizes the talent investment. “If someone is not a good fit, the people they need to groom will not come to them, and the organization can’t progress,” Berry explained.

Ensure Data Security

Data is growing exponentially and pouring into public and private clouds. By 2025, 463 exabytes of data will be created every day, a 2019 Harvey Nash/ KPMG CIO survey found. Edge computing and the IoT will vastly increase the number of access points, and each new connection is a potential entryway for hackers.

“C-suite leaders need to make decisions about where their data goes and develop a structured data governance and security plan,” Berry said. The CISO should lead the way, working with business units and partners to incorporate their requirements.

That includes large managing cloud providers. “You need to manage hyperscale vendors just like you manage your own team. If you don’t want your data stored in a specific country, you have to specify that,” Berry said.

As personal data proliferates, privacy concerns are increasing. In the Harvey Nash/KPMG survey, 91% of technology leaders agreed that data privacy and trust will become as important to customers as the products and services they buy.

Demonstrating full compliance with regulations from HIPAA, FINRA, Europe’s GDPR, and state privacy laws is a must for securing client trust, Berry said. 

At a Crossroads

Today’s C-suite leaders have an important choice to make: They can float from one cloud solution to the next, or develop a comprehensive cloud plan that fits hand-in-glove with their strategic and operational goals. Those who steer their organizations to take full advantage of the cloud will rise above the rest, Berry predicts.

“Cloud-smart leaders run their businesses more efficiently and are able to take advantage of AI, machine learning, and no- or low-code applications. As a result, they deliver products faster and use data insights to provide better client services. Those are strong competitive advantages.”

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