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Why the ‘right things’ for your cloud journey are determined by business priorities 

Sep 26, 2023

In the first of this three-article series, we explored the principle of using cloud for the right things, done the right way. We argued that getting the value from cloud can be challenging unless you focus on transforming the right things given your business priority. In this second article, we explore this concept of ‘the right things’ further. 

Our experience shows us that if we immediately act on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ without understanding the ‘why’, the path to cloud will not be aligned with business priorities and the outcomes rarely realized.  

In no particular priority order, we list six common business priorities in cloud transformation

  • Protect the enterprise 
  • More sustainable IT 
  • Create value from data 
  • Improve go-to-market 
  • Reduce cost 
  • Scale with AI 

Every organization will have different priorities on which they want to focus first. Alignment with the business outcomes sought, competitive landscape, innovation ambition, regulatory requirements, etc. is essential when accelerating your cloud journey. Depending on the business priority, you can define strategies that ensure the optimum cloud environment is built and efficiently operated.  

The following defines a set of specific actions to take for each business priority we’ve listed – the right things – based on our learnings from clients. These will help to ensure cloud is adopted in an optimal way to enable the desired business outcomes.  

Priority #1: Protect the enterprise 

Continuity is a strategic imperative and cloud with its rich set of security services and global deployment options is an enabler of this. At the same time, risks must be addressed. Indeed, a Capgemini Research Institute report reveals concerns with current cloud environment implementations, including potential exposure to extra-territorial laws and/or the possibility of data access by foreign governments owing to vendors’ location of origin. Outages to critical shared cloud services have affected all the major cloud providers, including GCP, AWS, and Azure. This demands that security-by-default and design-for-resiliency are top of mind when building and migrating services to the cloud and for ensuring that business-critical services can survive regional failures.  

To succeed with using cloud to protect the enterprise, specific actions to take include: 

  • Define the appropriate level of sovereignty needed to ringfence the data you want to keep within your own control in line with your risk exposure  
  • Engineer Landing Zones with corporate security policies embedded 
  • Align resilient designs with business recovery objectives 
  • Use policy-as-code when building application environments 
  • Enable federated access control  
  • Make zero-trust networking part of your cloud strategy. 

Cloud provides several rich features for security design and a ‘wrong’ thing to do is to try and retro-fit data center tools and practices on to cloud. Rather use the in-built cloud-native services to build a protected and resilient environment from the ground-up. 

Priority #2: More sustainable IT 

The concept of sustainable IT operations isn’t new. After all, the tech industry has been aware that IT as a whole has a significant carbon footprint and has been seeking ways to address this for several years. But what is new is the ability of cloud to help make enterprise IT more sustainable. For example, some enterprises have made the switch to a green cloud architecture and framework. Indeed, some of the largest hyperscalers have taken significant steps towards powering their data centers with renewable energy.   

To succeed with using cloud to achieve more sustainable IT, specific actions to take include:  

  • Calculate the potential CO2 emission savings comparing the as-is on-prem CO2 emissions with the potential CO2 emissions in the future cloud environment. 
  • Apply right-sizing and application architecture optimization for modernization. 
  • Architect for sustainability, e.g., use compute options that reduce energy consumption and “turn off the lights” when not in the room. 
  • Consider containerization for better hardware utilization and switch to cloud-native and PaaS. 
  • Use a cloud dashboard that continuously measures and reports on carbon usage. 
  • Identify pragmatic optimization levers and allow individual application owners to own and drive their contribution.  

Understand the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) from both on-prem datacenters and cloud and how they are calculated. This will enable you to see how changes in placement of workloads can positively affect the carbon emission footprint.  

Priority #3: Create value from data 

Gaining industry advantage with cloud technologies rests on creating new value from data and insights. Organizations have significant volumes of data but the challenge is that it is largely locked away and difficult to access. Data is more than simply what is stored in a database on a system in enterprise IT – it is also everything physically that moves for the organization, including what partners and clients are doing in the physical world. Unlocking all this data by enabling IoT devices, converging OT into IT, and integrating partner eco-systems are all pre-requisites to getting raw data onboarded to cloud services that apply machine learning models, generative AI and indefinite scale to process peta-bytes of data. This demands a holistic data generation, access and storage strategy for the enterprise.  

An anti-pattern to avoid is to build a data lake on cloud and populate it with data without a clear view on the use-cases being supported.

To succeed with using cloud to create value from data, specific actions to take include:  

  • Apply a use-case and outcome-driven approach to using cloud for data (start small, increment). 
  • Evaluate your data storage needs and look at the data management solutions that will allow you to rapidly move data and applications between cloud and on-premises environments. 
  • Architect for multiple access patterns in a hybrid cloud, multi-cloud context and be prepared to support analytics where the data resides, as opposed to the traditional architecture where all data remains centralized. 
  • Roadmap the partner eco-system to ensure data is available and managed as a product (the right data to the right consumer at the right time). 
  • Ensure you have a real-time view of data to support the rapid decision making needed to move fast in today’s competitive market. 

Priority #4: Improve go-to-market 

When different functional teams (Dev, Testing, Production, Ops) work at their own pace or with processes and mindsets still entrenched in legacy ways of working, it becomes impossible to release fast and respond to market demands in an agile manner. With business agility, the goal is to create an organization built around delivering value to the customer. The teams that span business and technology should be able to come together in product-oriented value streams organized to ensure the most efficient delivery of value to the customer. An organization’s structure needs to evolve over time and is likely to be driven by technological changes. This demands a Cloud Platform Strategy that describes a standardized set of foundational capabilities. This can then be used to create a higher-level of service in the knowledge that platforms are designed to accelerate delivery and standardize operations.  

To succeed with using the cloud to improve go-to-market, specific actions to take include:  

  • Engineer a cloud platform that is designed to enable innovation; embed automation and CI/CD pipelines that allow agile product teams to focus on creating business services and not do the basement plumbing.  
  • Standardize corporate-supported services and patterns, curated containers and standard images. Create a repository of common re-usable infrastructure-as-code assets that accelerate the startup time for environment builds. 
  • Consider what the golden paths are but be careful with enforcement; rather work with guardrails and policies.  
  • Establish a developer front-portal that consolidates documentation on APIs, gives access to common libraries, and creates a community for building digital services. 

Priority #5: Reduce costs

Financial optimization has been one of the predominant drivers for cloud adoption, yet many organizations still struggle to manage costs, meet their cost reduction goals, and create value for the business when operating in the cloud. With the democratization of technology through cloud services, there is now a vast array of options available, ranging from diverse architectures to various performance levels and services. However, this abundance of choice can lead to uncontrollable costs if not managed with a shared sense of accountability across the organization. This demands a focus on excelling at cloud economics and adherence to the FinOps Principles that advocate shared responsibility and accountability across variable cloud spending models and enable flexible investment strategies.  

With these FinOps Principles in mind, to succeed with using the cloud to reduce costs, specific actions to take include:  

  • Avoid simplistic capacity forecasting and a lack of rightsizing that sizes the workload to the same degree as on-premises – they are very different and making this mistake will mean cloud could end up costing you more! 
  • Ensure cloud economics feeds into a continuous improvement approach. 
  • Invest in processes, tools and best practices that monitor current operating costs, including ‘new’ cloud costs. 
  • Use cloud cost calculators to estimate future costs, for example the cost of storage, computing resources, networking requirements, etc.  
  • Apply tagging and cross-charge the spend to the consuming department.  
  • Work with the cloud providers to establish what cost-savings (via pricing models/discounts) they can offer based on your utilization of their services.  

Priority #6: Scale with AI  

As more and more workloads and applications operate in the cloud, scalability becomes a challenge. This isn’t scalability in the sense of compute capacity, but rather of having the scalability to manage all the resources in operations. Traditional models rely heavily on people to get the job done but skills are difficult to find, and this approach will become a bottleneck. Automation is key and it will be essential to use AI to remove this bottleneck and improve quality and reliability. This represents a cultural shift where trust needs to be transferred from humans to machines. These intelligent machines will ensure policies are implemented, corrective actions are taken when alarms are raised, and a system is automatically patched when a high-priority security vulnerability is detected. 

To succeed with using the cloud to scale, specific actions to take include:  

  • Take steps towards more AI-driven operations (AIOps) that take advantage of the services for AI and automation available on cloud platforms. And measure continuously how many alerts and incidents are resolved without any human intervention.  
  • Leverage copilots and Generative AI in the delivery cycle. For example, developers having access to tools for coding assistance and support engineers seeking advice on how to solve a business disruption. 
  • Build deployment pipelines for common types of application architectures that can be standardized and re-used within the organization to accelerate deployment. 
  • Create an observability architecture and implement services that act on real-time data and ensure all the teams (not only operations) have access to operational data relevant for them. This is about providing the insights not only for improved reliability, but also for continuous improvement 

Your priorities, your cloud choices 

We have seen that different business priorities demand different things in our cloud transformation. It is not as simple as just doing everything to get all the outcomes. For example, when protecting the enterprise is a high business priority, the sought-after outcome can come at the expense of other priorities. There could be conflicts between higher-cost security services running in the environment against the priority to reduce cost. Therefore, it is important to align your cloud and business strategies to take the right decisions in tune with your order of priority.  

This article has detailed concrete actions (the right things) to take to succeed with using cloud for six different business priorities. It is not an exhaustive list but represents good things to start with from our experience.  

What next?  

It’s easy to assume that simply taking a few actions means it’s then ‘job done’. And that’s part of the problem. Partnering with the cloud hyperscalers represents a wholly new model for IT provision that demands a new approach. In the next article in this three-part series, we will dig deeper into the ‘right way’ for cloud and touch more on the non-technology aspects of what’s needed in terms of people and organization. When both ‘the right things’ and ‘the right way’ come together, the exhilarating journey of business transformation enabled by cloud can really begin, taking your organization into a new world. 

Article series

Meet our expert

Ruben Olav Larsen

Head of Nordic Cloud Center of Excellence (CoE)
Ruben is an experience cloud architect and the Head of Nordic Cloud CoE at Capgemini. His primary focus is helping customers with their cloud transformation journey and leveraging cloud services in an optimal and cost-effective way to maximize business value. Ruben has over 15 years of experience as spanning development, cloud engineering, cloud architecture and advisory, including FinOps.

Mattias Persson

Chief Technology Officer, Nordic Cloud CoE
Mattias is the CTO for Cloud in the Nordics with a focus on creating business value from cloud technology. His expertise is defining and driving cloud transformation, including defining an enterprise cloud strategy, cloud-native infrastructure, target operating models, DevSecOps enablement, application modernization and migration. Mattias has 20 years of experience as an Enterprise Architect and IT Strategy Consultant and holds architect certifications in AWS, Azure and Google Cloud.