Posted: 28 Sep. 2021 10 min. read

Putting cloud to work in the future of work

Cloud and the digital workplace journey: Part 1

By Robin Jones, Martin Kamen, and Diana Kearns-Manolatos

Why HR business and technology leaders need to partner on cloud strategy and transformation

Organizations across every industry are navigating monumental disruption—whether it is addressing ethical issues such as climate change and ESG, navigating how to build and cultivate trust, rearchitecting the future of work, or “digitally transforming” as part of their digital workplace journey. In fact, six out of 10 leaders in Deloitte’s 2021 Global Resilience study expect to see occasional or pervasive global disruption at the scale of COVID-19 and climate change going forward as the norm.  

This environment of disruptive change has accelerated transformations in work, the workforce, and the workplace that were already in motion. And it has further cemented cloud’s role in enabling the future of work, including innovative new business and organizational strategies, new operating models such as human-machine collaboration, agile ways of working, shifts to the digital workplace, and much more. Cloud is core, and it has evolved far beyond the now-familiar SaaS-based solutions. HR and business leaders can benefit from a deeper understanding of cloud, which is not only transforming the IT function but also providing new opportunities across the organization. Reciprocally, technology leaders need to work closely with HR and business leaders on organizational design and workforce strategies to effectively transform the digital workplace and the future of work.

The future of work: Aligning on strategy

Three big shifts in work, workforce, and workplace are driving the future of work and the digital workplace, and the cloud is the engine powering them. However, while two-thirds (66.2 percent) of more than 1,600 participants in our recent cloud Dbriefs webcast poll reported that cloud is enabling their work, workforce, and workplace, nearly a quarter (24.9 percent) of respondents didn’t know if their organization was using the cloud as an enabler. HR, business leaders, and technology leaders can all benefit from being better aligned on strategy in each of these areas.

  • Work is being re-architected, moving away from the legacy of process-based tasks to focus more on project-based outcomes. Re-architecting how we work, using digital solutions enabled by the cloud, is how we can unlock value through enhanced productivity.
  • The workforce trends we’ve tracked for more than a decade have accelerated. People want more flexibility, more purpose, and more say in their work. The pandemic gave us a new understanding of how work gets done and who can do it—effectively unleashing the workforce. It also highlighted skills gaps and forced organizations to recognize that they need to understand what skills are required in a cloud-enabled future and how they can access them, whether through upskilling within the organization or by tapping into a broader workforce ecosystem
  • Workplaces are evolving quickly in terms of where work physically gets done and the role of digital workspaces in enabling teaming and collaboration. Cloud is fueling this “phygital” workplace, enabling the workforce to work differently and with more value.

Each of these shifts will require leaders across functions to collaborate on strategy. But to look at one of the three in greater detail, we can examine changes in work itself. Deloitte’s recent research found that organizations are looking to innovate work outcomes related to four key areas that will require HR and business leaders to collaborate with cloud strategy leaders:

  • Operations: Related to business continuity, workforce management, proactive cybersecurity, and governance.
  • Data: Platforms that enable data consolidation, analytics, and intelligence and platforms that support work.
  • Experiences: Cloud strategies can deliver frictionless, omnichannel, and personalized customer experiences and integrate technologies like augmented and virtual reality.
  • Ecosystems: Cloud infrastructure is supporting more collaboration across digital platforms and collaborative ecosystems.

Across life sciences, health care, and government organizations, we’ve seen organizations using cloud data ecosystems to support collaborative research around new therapeutics and vaccines, and telemedicine strategies. Hospital networks have used the cloud to enable workforce management with internal talent marketplaces. Financial services and e-commerce organizations have started to think about re-platforming and modernizing legacy lending applications and digital payments infrastructures. Cloud is being used to innovate digital apps and to manage workforce safety. The list is long and growing. 

As IT leaders bring the power of the cloud to the organization, business and HR leaders should look at ways to optimize value creation. Cloud technology can help modernize the business core, playing a central role in innovation and transformation across operations data, customer experience, supply chain, and so much more. What future scenarios would you like to achieve with cloud? Is it being able to use data to become more agile and respond to what the data reveal? Is it using cloud to innovate new product strategies? Is it automating business operations through intelligent AI?

The point is that cloud has the potential to unlock tremendous business value, and organizations are taking many different paths to do so. Cloud is not one thing; it can be many different things to help drive change and power transformative business solutions.

Workforce and Organizational Implications

In the process, cloud is fundamentally changing how businesses function—their organizational structure, roles, and ways of working. And this is not just for IT, it’s across the whole organization.

The cloud-enabled innovation we’re talking about isn’t just about the technology—it’s about the humans behind the technology. We know that humans bring the intellectual horsepower, creativity, collaboration, empathy, and vision that are crucial to innovation. Facilitating and enhancing these innate human qualities with technology is where the real breakthroughs happen. This is not only true in the IT function, but across the organization.

Getting to this place of human-machine synergy means solving a very different problem. Current practices focus on change management and teaching people how to adopt technology, but what we really need to do is engage humans in designing future solutions that will change how they work so that they embrace it. 

Keeping the momentum going

The pandemic accelerated the adoption and use of cloud infrastructure to support changes to day-to-day business operations. What many organizations found, though, is that they were not prepared with the right people or processes, or technologies they needed to advance those strategies.  

Moving to the cloud is not always as simple as lifting and shifting—it’s not about doing what you do today “in the cloud.” It’s really about fundamentally rethinking the way that work is done in the organization and creating platforms that drive forward new strategies and bring together users across the business around shared goals.

In our next post, we’ll look at how organizations can avoid what we call the “cloud adoption plateau” and align their operating model, skills, leadership, and ways of working to realize meaningful returns on their cloud investment that unleashes the power of their workforce.


  • Robin Jones, Principal, and US Workforce Transformation leader
  • Martin Kamen, Principal and US Human Capital Cloud Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • Diana Kearns-Manolatos, Senior Manager, Center for Integrated Research, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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Robin Jones

Robin Jones

Principal | Workforce Transformation

Robin is a Principal with 22 years of organization and workforce transformation consulting experience. She spent the majority of her career advising business leaders of Technology, Media, and Telecommunications companies through complex business transformations. With a focus on the Future of Work, Robin advises senior executives as they contemplate how data, technology and societal changes are impacting the work, workforce, and workplace. At Deloitte, Robin leads Workforce Transformation with end-to-end responsibility for the market, services, and talent, and serves on the CEO’s Marketplace Leadership Team in Deloitte Consulting. Robin holds a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Georgia Tech and an MS in Architecture and BS in Interior Design from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Martin Kamen

Martin Kamen

Principal | Human Capital Cloud Leader

Martin is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital Practice, based out of San Francisco. Martin’s focus is on working with clients to help them manage and prepare leaders and employees for large-scale business transformation. Martin is also the US and Global Human Capital Cloud leader. Martin has an MSc in International Employment Relations and Human Resource Management from the London School of Economics and a BA in Sociology from The George Washington University.