Cloud Lessons Learned: How to Pivot for Whatever Surprise Tomorrow Brings

Flexibility and agility are critical attributes that enable businesses to pivot. Here’s how to gain those capabilities.

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Numerous studies have found that the pandemic expedited organizations’ digital transformation efforts. As companies moved to rapidly address new employee and customer needs, cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS) became a central vehicle to address a rapidly changing marketplace with speed and flexibility.

To uncover best practices and lessons learned from changes over this past year, we talked with Aater Suleman, Vice President of NTT DATA’s cloud transformation business.

Q: COVID-19 clearly accelerated cloud-based digital transformation. How will this trend continue and what lessons can IT leaders learn from this period of rapid transformation?

A: As the pandemic progressed, the differences between digital laggards and technologically advanced companies that proactively embraced cloud as a foundation for digital transformation became increasingly clear. At NTT DATA we conducted a survey during the pandemic and found that digital-forward organizations were able to grow revenue, customer base and employee satisfaction despite market uncertainty. We attribute this to their ability to quickly pivot and meet changing customer and employee needs with a mature technology portfolio.

For example, Colorado State University, Pueblo was able to quickly adopt a new AWS-based application that enabled it to expand its COVID-19 testing and contact tracing capabilities. In the process, the university was able to cut its COVID-19 positivity rate to less than 1%. It safely resumed on-campus operations in six weeks.

Meanwhile, organizations saddled with technical debt and business-critical legacy systems suffered from the inability to react to change as quickly as the market demanded. While many organizations pushed cloud transformation to the top of their ‘to do list’, hurdles to progress remained for these companies due to their past inaction.

The lesson: To remain competitive, it’s important to continuously modernize your systems to ensure you have the speed and flexibility to pivot for any surprise that tomorrow may bring. Laggards that put the proverbial pedal to the metal shouldn’t let off the gas but rather use this experience as an opportunity to continue their cloud transition to ensure future competitiveness, responsiveness, and business success.

Q: What should CIOs be doing now to accelerate out of the pandemic and gain competitive advantage?
 
A:
 Whether you consider yourself a leader or not, now is the time to use technology to unearth new business value. Uncover new ways of working and addressing customer needs and expectations with advanced technologies like AI and IoT enabled by cloud providers like AWS. Take insights gathered and apply them to create new products, services and customer experiences that fuel your competitive advantage.

Moreover, as you get better at seeing patterns and acting quickly on them, you’ll be able to address changing customer expectations more rapidly than the competition, effectively accelerating your ability to observe, orient, decide and act – often referred to as the OODA Loop. This positive cycle can be effectively enabled by the elastic nature of AWS services, Agile development, and DevOps practices. 

Take for example how one regional Blue Cross Blue Shield organization approached the need to stand out in a highly competitive market. The health plan transformed its legacy data systems with a modern AWS data lake that empowered the provider to implement next-generation cloud technologies to amplify value-based care and drive growth. It did so by gathering and correlating unstructured data from across the organization to find areas to improve patient satisfaction. In addition to unearthing and addressing patient needs, the health plan was able to grow its efficiency and reduce costs.

Q: While we can’t always foresee the future, are there universal lessons CIOs can take away from the experience of this last year?

A: While CIOs have been through a season of rapid change, continuous learning and improvement should become a new constant. In this environment, managing change should be an exercise in proactively adopting technologies that enable the business to seamlessly pivot in response to unforeseen changes in the market. Organizations that use cloud services like AWS as their foundation have proven more agile because they can expand capacity to meet peaks in demand, introduce new functionality without unintended consequences somewhere else, and can more easily make course corrections, reacting to market change with new features and customer experiences.
This level of agility is a powerful advantage in any market condition. 

Q: If you could give IT organizations embarking on a cloud journey a parting piece of advice, what would it be?

A: Enterprises that start their cloud journey on the right foot have a few things in common, most notably they begin with a secure foundation. They assess their application portfolio for the five Rs (retire, retain, rehost, replatform, and refactor) to determine which applications add little value and should be retired, all the way up to those that add value and should be refactored to maximize cloud-native benefits.

Cloud transformation should not be a one-and-done exercise. While it may be easy to focus on today’s needs, the ultimate focus should be on continuously delivering business value. And, with this mindset, leading organizations can see beyond “lift and shift” to drive value from cloud’s powerful capabilities, using AWS automation and DevOps processes to create a positive cycle of continuous learning and innovation.

Read how others have successfully accelerated their efforts with AWS and NTT DATA.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.