Despite the incredible growth of the cloud market - surely justifying cloud’s status as one of the most important technological trends of the last decade - it’s important to remember that it is far from ubiquitous. While the tech press and the analyst industry might make you think that everyone is undergoing digital transformation, the truth is that every business is at a very different stage in that journey. The future, as William Gibson noted, isn’t evenly distributed.
Sure, the relevance and usefulness of cloud differs by industry and organisation, but the fact remains that cloud can benefit organisations of all types and in all sorts of ways.
It’s perhaps this variety that the industry has found hard to really communicate. The cloud metaphor was useful back when it first appeared, but it has arguably been too successful as an abstraction. For many organisations, when it comes to actually thinking about how it can directly drive you towards business goals, the idea of cloud can feel intangible.
However, Covid-19 has changed all that. The last 12 months has brought the uneven distribution of the future into sharp focus. For those companies that have yet to undergo a cloud-based digital transformation, the demands of the pandemic forced them to scramble to initiate change.
In various ways, then, cloud can help to manage a huge range of Covid-19 challenges. What’s important is that decision makers don’t just focus on an abstract idea of ‘cloud’ as a silver bullet solution to all their problems, but instead to think about their biggest and most pressing challenges at the same time as exploring the various ways that cloud tools and platforms can help them.
In this post we’ll explore the reasons why Covid-19 has strengthened the argument for cloud, and the various ways it can help organisations manage the challenges they face today.
Cloud can power analytics programs to gain intelligence in an uncertain environment
Few people would argue that robust big data analytics can be highly beneficial to an organisation. But despite the hype, to many in business - with their own specific day-to-day challenges - it can feel like either a luxury or a project beckoning you from the future.
However, the uncertainty that has characterised the last year has made analytics programs more attractive and urgent than ever. It can give businesses the confidence that they understand the reality of the world in which they are operating, and it can also provide a level of intelligence that can support decision making.
There are a number of ways analytics programs can be deployed. For example, they could be used to help finance teams better plan and manage change cashflow to make more responsible and considered decisions; they might be used by marketing teams to better target and personalise customer experiences during periods where business feels slow. Product and support teams can similarly use analytics to better understand user and customer needs, and prioritise and target resources that optimise the right things.
Without cloud solutions these projects would require a significant amount of effort and investment far beyond the reach of even medium sized businesses. But because just about every major cloud offering provides features and products that give access to analytics powered by machine learning - often in real-time - it’s now accessible to all.
Cloud allows product and engineering teams to adapt quickly
While cloud-based analytics can, as we’ve seen, guide product teams to make informed decisions about product development and evolution, cloud-native development can help product and engineering teams adapt quickly to changes in customer need or behaviour. This means new features and updates to applications and services can be made at speed.
The notion that cloud offers a completely new way of working always sounds a bit overwrought, but in the context of software development it’s true. It makes agile methodologies even more powerful, allowing development teams to build, test and deploy constantly.
It’s worth pointing out that this change can be challenging for some teams. But this isn’t so much a technical challenge - it’s instead a cultural one. From this perspective, building your products and processes on and around the cloud can be disruptive, but it can also be incredibly empowering and rewarding for engineers. It enables a genuine customer-focus - and in difficult times that’s more important than ever.
Cloud brings you into a piece of an ecosystem driven by experts
Cloud, in the sense we talk about it today, is typically public. This means that they are part of wide and growing ecosystems that are shaped by vendors at the cutting-edge of technology and the varied needs of businesses around the world.
This isn't a trivial point - in terms of growth and technological capabilities, being part of this ecosystem is incredibly important. While you can, of course, forge your own path, either by purchasing proprietary software or even building platforms and tools yourself, when you buy into a public offering, you're buying into a whole ecosystem.
While it would be naive to think this ecosystem isn't ultimately about commercial advantages, it is also certainly also collaborative. Tools and stories emerge from these spaces and in doing so they allow us all - if we're open to them and willing to leverage them correctly - to become more effective and better at what we do.
Distributed teams need distributed infrastructure
As we’ve moved to a remote, distributed style of working, cloud has become crucial. It simply doesn’t make sense to think about software in terms of a specific location. This is most obvious in the tools and platforms - like Zoom - that have shaped our pandemic experiences, but our reliance on tools for collaboration and sharing data and information are all dependent on cloud infrastructure.
This means that cloud has the capacity to offer relatively frictionless remote working experiences at a time when those difficulties could well be at their most pronounced and stressful.
Cloud can help you manage scale during unpredictable times
Finally, cloud offers organisations a level of elasticity in how they manage scale. That could be in terms of data, traffic - anything. This is particularly important during this Covid era as the rhythms of business - in just about every industry - has changed.
Cloud platforms give you the flexibility to scale when required, and can also help to minimise capital spending. This isn’t to say that pushing everything into OpEx is always going to be cost effective - pay attention to your providers’ pricing structure! - but it is going to give you some degree of flexibility.
Conclusion: Cloud puts you in control
The advantages of cloud haven’t changed, but they have undoubtedly become more obvious over the last 12 months. This isn’t to say that the cloud is going to solve all the challenges posed by the pandemic, but it does offer ways of working and capabilities that can return some sense of control. And ultimately that feeling of control will mean you can continue to deliver for your customers.
Want to learn more about cloud adoption? Download The Pacesetter’s Handbook.