6 months ago

The Business Benefits of Public Cloud

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At StoryPositive, we approach the use of Public Cloud from the business perspective. This is because using Public Cloud engenders a fundamental mindset shift and creates changes that not only impact the technical landscape but the business one too.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Public Cloud is just a bunch of technology and, therefore, something safely left to the geeks. In a way it is and it can… But adopting this approach means missing out on business value; the danger is you only realise small gains where large (sometimes very large) gains are possible. Moreover, whilst most people (even geeks who are, after all, intelligent beings in their own right) understand the nature of the business, a true understanding of the business benefits that Public Cloud can bring is often overlooked by geek and business-person alike.

Value is often overlooked for a variety of reasons and it can be extremely hard to cut through the noise. Before we get to the value, let’s explore some of the reasons why value is missed.

  1. Vendor agendas. Sometimes their agenda suits yours, sometimes not so much, but it’s worth remembering that salespeople are driven by sales targets. That may sound obvious, but the pressure of tight timescales and competing priorities means it’s often overlooked or glossed over. As an example, many consultancies will try to sell you a solution that aligns with a service provider with whom they have a close relationship that is rewarded with directly in the form of commission or indirectly as points in a tiered partnership programme.
  2. Internal actors’ agendas. Personal agendas exist for many reason – people don’t like (or want) change; people can’t be bothered to think through the options available; personal preference materialises as a bias; lack of understanding of options, which may be due to a number of factors such as a lack of training; fear of job losses, which may or may not be valid, but is a strong motivator for resistance.
  3. A reluctance to educate oneself. A recurring issue we encounter is that of not understanding how Public Cloud works. Often, people assume that it’s a special area of the Internet where anyone can run amok. A simple way to understand Public Cloud is to think of it as a series of interconnected devices that have a baseline of security that are all connected via the Internet and then to think about your own network. These days almost all organisations are connected to the Internet. In a way, the terms ‘Public Cloud’ and ‘Internet’ can be seen as synonyms (leaving aside the specific offerings and, instead, focusing on the interconnectivity side of things). Now, would you say that your organisation is operating on a mature part of the Public Cloud?
  4. Fear of looking stupid. This is a hard one. Sometimes, when we’ve been seen as the expert in a field and that field encounters change, we catch people out when we ask them questions (often without realising or meaning to). Rather than admit to a lacuna their knowledge, people will often parrot out what they’ve heard and then stick to it stubbornly so as not to become embarrassed by a lack of knowledge.

To cut through the noise it’s worth taking time to challenge the information presented. This can be done in a number of ways. For example, making a trusted resource Devil’s Advocate during a meeting to discuss the pros and cons of the various options espoused by others, such as vendors. Make sure your Advocate understands it’s safe for them to do this; that, in fact, success in this instance means them disagreeing with everything said, even if arguing from a point of view that they don’t own. Another term for this is mandated dissent.

Nextly, capture the points, then after the meeting read them through. Try to remain impartial until you’ve had a chance to listen to all sides. Now you are far more likely to make an informed decision rather than allowing yourself to be swayed by the agendas of others.

Here, then, are some of the business benefits of using Public Cloud. Some may sound technical, but they all translate directly into that all important bottom line[1]

  1. No more worrying about keeping infrastructure up-to-date. That’s done for you by the Cloud provider. So, no more multi-month (multi-year), resource-heavy programmes of work to modernise the data centre. Not only that, but it becomes easier to achieve regulatory compliance because you know you’re never more than N-1 version behind (and usually you’ll be on N);
  2. Cloud is more secure than traditional infrastructure. A bold claim? No, a true one. You’ve no doubt read or heard about all sorts of issues with people’s data being stolen from Cloud-based systems, but the truth is these things happen because of poor configuration, not because they’re in the Cloud. We cover this in depth in another article, but if you want to do your own research, we recommend searching on the terms Zero Trust and Shift Left to give you some idea. There’s no disagreement on the reputational damage poor security can do to a business and how much of a problem it create with regulator(s)[2]. Note, you shouldn’t rely solely on the Public Cloud provider for security[3], but you do get a decent baseline out of the box.
  3. You are freed from binding supplier contracts that may have made sense once, but don’t in the Cloud. Be careful here: all cloud providers will tempt you with “better” prices if you promise to lock into them exclusively. The truth, however, is their salespeople are rewarded on a consumption basis. That means it’s in their interest to get you to over-consume[4]. The way to avoid this is simple: don’t lock into one provider.  Make that a maxim in your Public Cloud mantra! The beauty of Public Cloud is it’s a data consumption / flow model so you don’t need to lock yourself in. Again, this is covered in more detail elsewhere, but, suffice to say that commercial tension is a good thing when handled correctly.
  4. Attract and retain talent. This is no small matter. To attract and retain talent it helps to be in at the start…. And the starter’s gun has fired! Public Cloud is where skilled resource want to be. By not going there you are announcing to the world that yours is not the organisation to work for. That sounds harsh, but it’s true; a quick look at the jobs market or Github will confirm it.
  5. Become more responsive to client demands. In a future article we’ll cover delay costs – costs often forgotten in accounting schemes. This also feeds into working practices (see next point).
  6. Done properly, Cloud inculcates more efficient working practices. This is often where the biggest challenge lies. In the old world (what Gartner terms Mode-1), siloes manage work between each other through the use of contracts  and strangleholds on customer-supplier relationships. These contractual fences over which work passes are really muddy trenches into which things fall and are forgotten, and over which lies a fog through which most are unable to see. This leads to additional delays and costs. When you set up the world of Public Cloud properly, you end up with lean self-organising multi-functional teams that deliver value faster. However, to get this right requires commitment from the very top of the organisation on down and, almost always, coaching for senior leadership as well as those at the coalface.

Let’s take a moment to think about what happens if you decide not to go to the cloud?

  • If your competitors are, and you’re not, you’re setting yourself up to be leapfrogged and in a few years time they may well have got so far ahead that you find it impossible to catch up. At best that could mean relegation; at worst, the wolf eats your breakfast!
  • You quickly lose the ability to attract and retain talent – something we’re seeing quite a lot of in the market.
  • Costs continue to remain high; more so than if you use Public Cloud[5]

This article is intended  to provide a glimpse into the benefits of using Public Cloud. To learn more, get in touch for an initial discussion.

[1]: The exact benefits depend on how you configure your cloud instance(s) meaning there will often be more than those listed here.

[2]: It’s worth pointing out that major global regulators are not only fine with data (including Personally Identifiable / Client Identifiable Data provided it’s handled correctly), most have guides on what they expect. Here’s one from FINMA the Swiss Banking Association; another from CSSF (or a direct download of circular CSSF/17/654 as amended by CSSF/19/714), the Luxembourg regulator; the FCA’s guidance, and, finally, the [European Banking Association’s guidance (direct document download). It’s also worth noting that most regulators are using Public Cloud themselves!

[3]: Public Cloud uses something called a Shared Security Model. Exactly where the Public Cloud provider’s responsibility stops and yours begins depends on how you adopt the Public Cloud.

[4]: This is also the reason we never recommend exclusively using the consulting arm of any of the big Cloud providers. Use them, but not exclusively.

[5]: There is a myth that Cloud can be as expensive / more expensive than traditional computing. This is simply not true if done properly. It’s when things aren’t that this myth can become reality. Cloud Myth Busters is the subject of a planned future article.

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