Against a backdrop of disruptive global events and fast-moving technology change, a cloud-first approach to enterprise applications is increasingly critical. That\u2019s the consensus from members of CIO.com\u2019s community of IT experts who weighed in on how a cloud-first approach to enterprise applications allow an organization to scale its business.\n\nWith a cloud-first approach, businesses can sidestep the high costs associated with on-premises deployment, installation, maintenance, and IT infrastructure upgrades with an option that scales capacity up or down based on need. Cloud-first applications support a manageable OpEx cost model, metered like a utility, as opposed to requiring significant upfront capital investments in infrastructure and software licenses.\n\nAnother upside to the cloud-first enterprise application model is standardization and lower complexity for internal IT operations, says Helen Yu (@YuHelenYu), founder and CEO of Tigon Advisory Corp. \u201cIt also brings your products and services closer to more customers with faster time to value, flexibility, and better adaptation to their ever-changing needs,\u201d she adds.\n\nAt the same time, the auto-scaling nature of cloud-first applications requires no human intervention because scaling is done based on CPU and memory usage to further improve efficiency, notes Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), president and CEO at Berkeley Varitronics Systems Inc. \u201cConfigurability in cloud-first strategies is key as organizations don\u2019t have to worry about hardware control, allowing for more focus on getting new services up and running faster,\u201d he says.\n\nA cloud-first approach \u201callows companies to focus on the business dynamics that dictate when and by how much enterprise applications need to scale,\u201d says Steve Guilford, CEO of AsterionDB. \u201cWhat could be worse than to plan for an event that requires the scaling of an application\u2019s infrastructure only to have it all fall flat on its face when the time comes?\u201d\n\nQuick response to disruptions\n\nConsider the last two-plus years of business disruptions caused by the global pandemic. Companies that not only survived but thrived amidst the myriad business challenges show why cloud-first application deployment is a critical component of a retooled IT strategy.\n\n\u201cThose that adopted a cloud-first approach were able to shift and adapt to the impeding changes that COVID brought efficiently and rapidly as compared to businesses that delayed efforts to move off premises,\u201d notes Elitsa Krumova (@Eli_Krumova), a global thought leader and technology influencer. \u201cThe cloud-first approach gives organizations a strong competitive advantage, ability to keep up with the competition, and improved roadmap for sustainable, future business growth.\u201d\n\nA shift to cloud-first enterprise applications ensured that remote employees could work effectively during the pandemic while creating a backbone to accommodate what is fast becoming a hybrid and distributed workforce, says Sridhar Iyengar (@iSridhar), management director, Zoho Europe. \u201cA cloud-first approach provides benefits to all organizations, whether their employees are spread disparately or working in one location,\u201d Iyengar says.\n\n\u201cThe COVID-19 pandemic established that business and cloud strategy are interwoven,\u201d says Gene De Libero (@GeneDeLibero), chief strategy officer at GeekHive.com. \u201cThat\u2019s illustrated by the ability of cloud-first businesses to pivot to a remote work-from-home model with unprecedented speed and scale.\u201d\n\nCarving out a digital transformation edge\n\nGrowth for today\u2019s modern business hinges on a variety of factors, including the ability to deliver seamless and compelling customer experiences and automate manual and cumbersome business processes, along with the crown jewels: creating a foundation for data-driven insights. By taking a cloud-first approach to enterprise applications, IT organizations free themselves up from repetitive implementation, configuration, and maintenance tasks to allow time for innovation efforts trained at promoting value for the business.\n\n\u201cCloud-first implementations help shift the entire organization\u2019s focus from the nuts and bolts of operating legacy systems to digital experiences, collaborative workflows, and real-time data,\u201d says Isaac Sacolick (@nyike), president of StarCIO and a digital transformation leader and influencer. \u201cScaling the business requires these flexibilities, and leaders seek this agility to better respond to disruption, changing customer needs, and growth opportunities.\u201d\n\n\u201cThe ability to securely store, prioritize, analyze, share, and scale data is fundamental to operations,\u201d says Chuck Brooks (@ChuckDBrooks), president of Brooks Consulting International and an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University. A cloud-first enterprise applications strategy helps make data more accessible to distributed users and workflows, he says.\n\nThis type of functionality and scale can be a game-changer for mission-critical applications such as SAP.\n\n\u201cSAP on the cloud is no longer just an IT cost-cutting proposition,\u201d says Venkat Tatavarthy (@vattyreflects), senior partner solutions architect for SAP at AWS. \u201cIt can help drive increased competitiveness, improved brand recognition, and added value to your customers. In short, it is a pathway to innovation.\u201d\n\nMore data-driven insights\n\nThe ability to tap into sophisticated machine learning, AI, and text-processing capabilities available through cloud platforms like AWS and through cloud-first enterprise applications can bolster an organization\u2019s ability to capture data-driven insights.\n\n\u201cWhether you\u2019re a healthcare provider trying to decrease 30-day readmissions or a utility company working to tackle vegetation encroachment, having immediate access to data is paramount to digital transformations,\u201d says Peter B. Nichol (@PeterBNichol), chief technology officer at OROCA Innovations. \u201cCloud-first makes it possible for companies to collect, consolidate, analyze, and visualize data to make intelligent decisions at the pace of today\u2019s business.\u201d\n\nThe scale of cloud provider platforms are an imperative for applications with complex AI functionality, says Sergey Alyamkin (sergey-alyamkin), CEO and co-founder of ENOT.ai. \n\n\u201cIt is often required to \u2018retrain\u2019 neural networks for user data, which requires significant computing resources for a short period of time,\u201d Alyamkin says. \u201cTo make it more complicated, it's not only the training of neural networks that requires significant computing resources, but also their use in the inference mode. In that case, a cloud-first approach to enterprise applications is the only way to host AI-based applications.\u201d \n\nFaster time to market\n\nA cloud-first approach also elevates software development practices, accelerating product release cycles and allowing for testing on a wider range of product possibilities, says Nikolay Ganyushkin, CEO & co-founder of Acure. Acure, which is developing a cloud-hosted AIOps platform for automating IT operations, was able to launch a new website and set up CRM and mailing services in preparation for a new product launch in India in a matter of two weeks using only cloud-based applications as opposed to what would have taken four to six weeks or longer with traditional, on-premises software, he says.\n\nCloud-first organizations can also more readily shift to modern software development constructs, including embrace of the DevOps\/DevSecOps model that promotes agility. \u201cThis enables software development teams to achieve a delivery velocity that just wasn\u2019t possible with legacy technologies and on-premises hosting,\u201d says Will Kelly (@willkelly), senior product marketing manager for Section, an edge compute platform. \u201cThis enables them to deliver security updates, new features, and applications that help grow their business operations.\u201d\n\nGiven that the global landscape is still recalibrating in response to pandemic-related disruptions, talent shortages, and economic pressures, companies need IT infrastructure that lets them quickly and easily make course corrections.\n\n\u201cThe traditional model of purchasing equipment is slow and cumbersome,\u201d says Adam Stern (@iv_cloudhosting), founder & CEO of Infinitely Virtual. \u201cThe newer, better approach of simply selecting the app and provisioning the cloud server on the fly is not just more efficient; it promotes more flexible solutions. It\u2019s particularly useful from a cost perspective, preventing you from getting locked into mistakes.\u201d\n\nLearn more about Wipro FullStride Cloud Services, industry-leading cloud capabilities and services. Contact us to know how we can fast track your business transformation journey on the AWS Cloud.\n\nThis post is brought to you by AWS and CIO Marketing Services. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of AWS.