Posted: 15 Nov. 2021 7 min. read

In times like these you learn to love the Cloud

Author: Mobina Salahuddin

There is nothing quite so powerful as an idea whose time has come. In economic history those transformational ideas have included: steam power, electrification, internal combustion and information technology.

It has become abundantly clear that since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the Cloud whose time has come.

In any crisis – and they don’t get bigger than the current pandemic – resilience and business continuity are front and centre. Things we always took for granted in our business and personal lives – going into the office, commuting and international travel, face-to-face meetings, socialising and entertainment, even basic food and medical supplies – become very precious.

This has focused minds on the huge, but hitherto largely unexploited, benefits of Cloud. In the space of a few short weeks we have seen a radical, and almost certainly permanent, change in human and organisational behaviours for some employers – many underpinned by Cloud applications.

With the need to maintain social distances and stay at home, air travel has fallen by 95%, road traffic is back to 1950s levels and for many, the workplace has shifted to the home. We’re socialising online, watching concerts online, consulting our GPs online, and even holding parliamentary debates online.

All of this has been made possible by the Cloud.

After years of tentatively dipping their toes into the shallow end of Cloud adoption, organisations have been thrown into the deep end by the virus. And they’ve found not only that they can actually swim but that they like it.

Suddenly, they ‘get’ Cloud and all the huge benefits it confers. CIOs across the country may be quietly pleased that the adoption curve has been so dramatically compressed. Cloud processes that the organisation might have taken years to consider have now been adopted in weeks.

The new normal is being established. Phrases like “game-changing” and “disruptive” can be overused but they do genuinely capture what is happening with Cloud today. Stopping the physical spread of the virus was just for starters. Having been initiated into the wonders of Cloud, organisations can now clearly see what it can offer both immediately and in the longer term.

Quite simply, Cloud has proven itself to be a highly effective response to the pandemic disruption. But more than this, it also offers the best opportunity for organisations to not only recover but to thrive in the longer-term. There are four key aspects to this:

One - Collaboration: As our physical lives have been separated, distanced and isolated, our virtual lives have really taken off. People who had never heard of, or experienced, the plethora of collaboration tools a few weeks ago are now happily videoconferencing, hosting virtual coffee breaks and even the odd quiz several times a day with colleagues, clients and friends. Being in the Cloud has ensured that for many organisations, lockdown has not meant shutdown. Meetings are being held, group project working is taking place and there is effective real-time communication.

But the lessons are not just for the time of the pandemic. Leadership teams are realising that in the future, the Cloud can reduce presenteeism, obviate centralisation and provide an opportunity to cut overheads. The leadership challenge lies in changing ingrained attitudes and adopting a post-COVID-19 mind-set based on collaboration rather than command-and-control. That will involve rebooting the culture of the organisation by breaking down silos, driving change and embracing new ways of working as we adapt to the new normal.

Operating virtually means the absence of face-to-face, personal contact so there is likely to be a need for more regular check-ins, ways of offering feedback and achieving a sense of engagement, belonging and trust. In fact, what many have been doing with ‘virtual pubs’ and family quizzes during the pandemic. Strategies to create and develop remote but high-performing teams will come to the fore.

Two - Automation: The perceived need for a physical, on-premises data centre has taken a huge hit during the pandemic. Already obsolescent, data centres remained because they acted like a comfort blanket to which many executives were only too happy to cling. Since lockdown, data centres have increasingly come to be seen as less relevant, difficult-to-access liabilities.

Cloud automation allows systems health checks and performance monitoring to be conducted far more safely, reliably and efficiently. It’s unlikely that anyone will want to revert to the old, clunky methods any time soon.

But Cloud automation is about so much more than being freed up from the data centre. With a Cloud-native approach, all updates, back-ups and data storage are automatic so there is a huge benefit in terms of agility and being able to scale dynamically without jeopardising operations. This further strengthens resilience, boosts efficiency and enhances security.

Three - Scale: Moving to the Cloud has been a quick fix in the short term to allow team members to isolate safely and regroup to keep the show on the road. That’s all well and good but nobody wants to spend the rest of their career in the lifeboat. Having seen what Cloud can offer, the challenge is to use the transformative potential of Cloud to scale up and drive all their business processes by Cloud control.

Everyone gets jittery when scaling isn’t available. In the physical world, demand for hand sanitiser, toilet paper and pasta spiked, and the supply chain couldn’t cope. The digital supply chain of Cloud is much more resilient. In Italy, as lockdown was imposed, some collaboration tools saw a massive 775% increase in usage in March and coped admirably. At the other end, websites that have seen traffic volumes dwindle during the pandemic (airlines, hotels, concert venues) can rapidly and easily scale back to save money.

Streaming services, too, are a bravura example of successfully harnessing the scalability and capacity of the Cloud during the pandemic. As lockdown was imposed in Italy and Spain, some providers saw subscriptions jump by 66% and 35% respectively. A reach that wouldn’t have been possible without the rapid scaling that Cloud enables. No box sets would be unimaginable in lockdown!

Four - Innovation and agility: Thanks to Cloud technology, remote work is now being carried out seamlessly and the prospect of the so-called elastic, digital workplace is imminent. Cloud-based solutions already exist for just about every conceivable job from finance and administration to engineering and marketing. In just a few short weeks we’ve adapted to living in the Cloud in terms of our family lives, social lives and working lives.

The education sector has swiftly pivoted from classrooms to home schooling; bricks and mortar retailers have taken their businesses entirely online; job interviews are taking place virtually in the Cloud while telemedicine is remotely diagnosing and treating patients.

By accelerating the pace, the pandemic has allayed many ill-founded concerns about security issues on the Cloud. C-Suites have confronted their lingering fears, swiftly removed the roadblocks to adoption and have just gone ahead. Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention and Cloud migration.

Beyond the pandemic, there is a real opportunity for the Cloud-based enterprise to reduce pollution and energy consumption, save time and stress, and increasing flexibility, productivity, efficiency, speed and trust.

It all depends on leadership’s willingness to embrace the new normal and maintain the forward momentum. Cloud is no longer a nice-to-have or even a need-to-have. It’s not a fix for social distancing: it’s a permanent shift in organisation, infrastructure and behaviour that is changing how we connect, cooperate, collaborate and create. It’s quite simply how we will do business in the post-pandemic world.

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Key contact

Mobina Salahuddin

Mobina Salahuddin

Director

Mobina is responsible for managing delivery of large scale technology driven change programmes in the Financial Services sector. Her primary area of focus is data strategy and cost reduction. Mobina has established project, programme and portfolio management offices for complex organisations as well as performed more specialist business case, financial and benefits management roles.