State of the UK Cloud: 2017
The Cloud Industry Forum recently published its annual whitepaper, 'Cloud: Driving Business Transformation'. It's based on a survey of 250 senior IT and business decision makers in UK enterprises of all sizes, from five employees to public sector organisations and large multinationals. As always, it’s intriguing to see the bigger picture for digital transformation across UK businesses, and how that matches against our experience with customers at Navisite.
In some ways, the report depicts a country that's firmly engaged in embracing digitalisation and the operational and financial rewards that can come from the best use of technology. While 44 per cent of UK businesses say they already have a plan for digital transformation, a further 32 per cent intend to create one. And already, 88 per cent of organisations are making use of cloud services, with an average of three such services in use per company.
It's good to see that the majority of businesses are either already embracing the power of digital or heading in the right direction. For those just starting out in this process of transformation - or perhaps stalled in some way, it might seem daunting. We'd advise focusing on specific, measurable benefits you want to bring to the business, and then building your digital strategy around realising those. This approach makes understanding your level of success much simpler, and equally, makes it considerably easier to justify the investment needed.
There are, of course, barriers to adoption that are preventing a significant number of organisations from realising their digital ambitions.
The heady pace of technological advancement doesn't make things easy, and can sometimes induce inertia. But equally, outside of technology, the political climate is especially uncertain at present, with the potential for new, but unpredictable regulations and legislation arriving from the consequences of Brexit, the UK General Election and the current US administration, on top of the changes already required by GDPR.
Such concerns are entirely legitimate: taking a bet on a large capital expenditure at this point would require nerves of steel. Our counsel would be to make your digital strategy not only designed to deliver agility, but for it to be agile in itself. The only constant is change, so the only sensible tactic is to be ready to move and adapt as circumstances require. An advantage of cloud solutions, here, is the pay-as-you-go and pay-as-you-use models that can be leveraged to reduce capital spend, and thus mitigate risk.
The most commonly expressed concerns adversely affecting digital adoption, according to the survey, are around security and privacy. These were voiced by 48 per cent of businesses and are not topics that should ever be downplayed. Indeed, the arrival of GDPR means that businesses need to be more diligent than ever when it comes to security: the new regulations will significantly increase fines for data breaches, potentially putting organisations out of business if they fail to treat private data with due care.
We don't, however, see security concerns as an argument against cloud adoption. In fact, we'd argue the opposite. Our data centres are protected by barbed-wire fences, round-the-clock guards, three-factor authentication; biometric controls on the doors and more. Dedicated security professionals are continually looking out for anomalies, and working hand-in-hand with support engineers to ensure software and operating systems are carefully maintained and have the most robust protection on offer. For the vast majority of organisations, cloud and managed services will deliver greater peace of mind when it comes to ensuring that data is locked-up tight.
The second set of barriers cited is lack of budget and existing investment in infrastructure. Again, these are perfectly legitimate. If your entire budget is accounted for, or your organisation has recently invested in a new data centre, then it becomes hard to move to new solutions.
We recognise this issue. But the nature of cloud computing also offers a great opportunity. It's not necessary for cloud adoption to be a full-on, whole-company, overnight switch. Indeed, that's not often realistic or advisable, given the complexity of many cloud migration projects. Instead, a gradual transition is frequently a sensible approach. This might either work in terms of first moving particular departments or processes to online solutions, or by looking at the natural end-of-life of your current hardware, and exchanging them for cloud-based alternatives machine-by-machine.
This gradual approach to transition is supported by a figure that appears later in the report. Nine out of ten organisations have encountered snags with their transformation project due either to complexity, lack of internal expertise or issues with internet access. Whether this will happen, largely comes down to the thoroughness of the planning process. Selecting and engaging a managed services partner, such as Navisite, early in your planning can really help to mitigate against these snags. They can advise on what's realistic, how long it will take and how much it's likely to cost. Working out those things on your own can be a stab in the dark, because it’s difficult to have all the necessary experience in-house to know exactly what to be aware of. A managed services partner, on the other hand, helps organisations on their road to digital success on a daily basis, and has already encountered - and found solutions for, or ways to avoid - a very large proportion of the snags that frequently occur.
Overall, the report confirms a lot of our own experience with customers. Digital transformation is definitely moving forwards and while times are uncertain and many IT decision makers are undoubtedly anxious about the future, the nature of cloud computing actually provides an antidote to those worries, and a way forward to reap the rewards of technological innovation while minimising risk.