Traditional on-premise application landscape is steadily being replaced by cloud-based infrastructure or Software-as-a-Service. This transformation has been ongoing but was rapidly accelerated over the past two years by the pandemic.

By Sumit Kumar Sharma, enterprise architect and head of advisory services at In2IT

While South Africa may lag behind the developed world, the country is leading the way on the African continent, with many born-in-the-cloud start-ups emerging, and even large enterprises moving assertively into the cloud.

The challenge for enterprises on the transformation journey is not just a change in infrastructure, but an entire change of mindset. Lifting and shifting technology into the cloud is often not feasible, and this approach will limit innovation.

We need to ask not how the cloud can fit into business processes, but how business processes can change to leverage maximum business value from cloud-based technologies.

Understanding future state

Pre-pandemic, there were many stories of failed cloud implementations, as enterprises scrambled to pull their infrastructure back on-premises. Now, the story is very different. Those organisations that had successfully begun the cloud migration were in a better position when external circumstances forced their arm.

Those that had not done so, needed to move fast. But, with experience comes learning, and as the technology and the market have matured, digital transformation has become a smoother process.

The key, as always, is effective planning. If the planning of the cloud migration is not done properly from the start, it will inevitably create difficulties. There are two stages here – firstly, businesses need to understand their baseline, especially if there is a heavy investment into -on-premises infrastructure.

Secondly, a clear target state needs to be established, with the understanding that the cloud is a transition, not necessarily a journey with a defined start and end goal. Lift and shift are often not possible at all, because on-premises data is so heavily entrenched.

Most of the cloud based technology company recommend “land and expand” approach. Establish the cloud footprint to ensure you have all the building blocks in place and thereafter expand the cloud footprint.

Understanding where you are and where you want to be, and then developing a strategy around that, is critical. There is no ‘one size fits all’ cloud strategy. The result is often multi-cloud and hybrid, and change is constant as regulations, compliance and businesses evolve.

People, process, data

Unlike traditional technology migrations, moving to the cloud needs to revolve around people, processes and data.

People are often the most challenging element because the cloud is not just a new piece of software. It is a whole new way of working in many cases, so if people are not upskilled, reskilled or given the tools to use the technology, then the implementation will not be a success.

Processes are where the cloud becomes interesting. The cloud is not just software, it is a revolution in the way infrastructure and applications are delivered, and it has massive potential.

Businesses often try to make the cloud fit their existing business processes, which limits its use and innovative potential. Full utilisation of the cloud demands going beyond this – next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning do not fit with traditional processes, so businesses must rethink things to ensure they can leverage the cloud to maximum advantage.

Data is often the biggest stumbling block to cloud migrations – everything businesses do today is dependent on data, and some data interactions are not fully understood by many businesses. Cloud migration is an opportunity for businesses to rethink how data is used, stored and managed to better align with new models and processes, as well as compliance and regulatory goals.

The long game

Business processes, behaviour and data all need to evolve as we move further into the cloud. The benefits are numerous – reduced capital expenditure and lower operational costs, greater agility and scalability, on-demand infrastructure, cutting-edge technologies are all part of the cloud by design.

Security is often actually better than on-premises, and the cloud also offers enhanced business continuity because data and applications can be accessed from anywhere at any time.

It is, however, important to remember that cloud migrations are a long game. There are immediate returns, however lot of organisations achieve competitive advantages in medium to long term after augmenting their business operational model with cloud enabled digital transformations.

Cloud migrations also need to be a business decision, not an IT decision, because the cloud fundamentally changes the way businesses work. Furthermore, the right IT partner is an invaluable asset, offering invaluable experience, and helping to map out a clear strategy with a long-term view.