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03 July 2017

The hype around cloud computing sounds heavenly. But transitioning to the cloud isn’t all smooth sailing – many organisations encounter stormy weather along the way.

Disruption now defines business, and there are few managers who haven’t received the memo by now. Advances in digital technology and networking have spurred innovation, and the companies thriving are those using technology to stay agile as their markets evolve rapidly. For most, a key ingredient for this agility is the cloud, allowing them to unshackle themselves from expensive, lumbering data centres and respond quickly to opportunities, market threats and changing customer demands. However, Singtel Cloud Business Vice President Sandip Gupta says many business see the cloud as simply a technology shift, replacing physical data centres with cheaper ones hosted virtually.
 
“Unfortunately, this mindset often results in cloud benefits such as cost reductions, improved agility and speed having a limited impact,” he said. “Conversely, the most successful cloud adoptions include fundamental changes to every aspect of a business’ IT operations model, extending well beyond technology to include people and processes.”
 
That means the move to the cloud should not be based on simply managing IT issues but instead on how the technology can help the business get on with its core focus.
 
 
But any company thinking the cloud is a bolt-on solution for reimagining their work practices is in for a rude shock, says Singtel Cloud Product Director Joseph Smith.
 
“Everyone wants to be more agile and faster, but it requires change,” he said. “You've got to think about how you start to change as an organisation to be able to take advantage of these things,” Smith said. So how can businesses integrate the cloud approach into their processes in a way that truly boosts innovation? Smith said the first step was determining which cloud approach is the right one—private, virtual private, public or some hybrid thereof.
 
“Private is like having your own car; you control where you go, the route, and the costs. A virtual private cloud is more like a taxi; there’s a lower level of available customisation, but a better price point overall than having your own car. Finally, a public cloud is like the bus—it has low costs, but you're going to have to consume it the way it was designed,” he said. Regardless of the approach, the key to successful implementation is treating the cloud approach not as simply an IT change, but an issue requiring whole-of-business focus.
 
Security is a good example of this, and one of the most common obstacles for businesses trying to embrace the cloud. In a world in which data is becoming increasingly valuable and sought-after, security is a major concern but cloud solutions can be as secure—or even more so—than traditional solutions.
 
“You have to proactively address security concerns as you move to the cloud. That means bringing the whole organisation—the IT department, the board, management committees—along,” Smith said. “There is enough best practice and technology that you now have as good a chance as securing an application on the cloud as you do on your own infrastructure.”
 
Singtel’s Gupta said best-practice cloud operating models required demolishing old legacy silo structures between different IT operations and instead reconfiguring teams to focus on encouraging convergence of skills, better productivity, and greater agility across the business. 
 
“Ideally, your IT department will give other lines of business the ability to launch and consume cloud services themselves,” he said. “You should also be able to track usage and bill departments inside your company. If your IT department doesn’t operate this way, it will likely become bogged down with managing constant software releases and service requests.”
 
This is essential for any company that wants true agility, which means empowering any part of the business to experiment with new ways of running operations quickly and cheaply or delivering services.
 
“Restructuring your organisation to this degree may seem like a mammoth task, but there are natural windows of opportunity to start embracing change,” Gupta said. “Transforming your business is important and necessary; ongoing market disruption means that the inability for businesses to quickly respond to market threats and opportunities puts them at a competitive disadvantage and poses survival threats.”
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