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Cloud First 2021 | Unlocking the Next Wave of Growth

Michael Behr

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Cloud First 2021
While the Cloud helped organisations meet the challenges of Covid-19, the next few years are the time to learn lessons and unlock the real advantages the technology offers.

After nearly a year and a half of immense social upheaval, DIGIT ran its final online event, the Cloud First 2021 Virtual Summit, on June 23rd.

The day was dedicated to examining the key trends and predictions surrounding Cloud technology, which has proven pivotal to maintaining business continuity through Covid-19.

Despite a general economic contraction, the Cloud sector saw major growth across 2020. As companies adapt their operations to using public and private cloud systems, it is widely expected that this growth will continue through 2021 and beyond.

However, this rapid growth came at a cost. As organisations found themselves having to implement major migrations in a matter of weeks, issues such as security, efficiency and cost were sacrificed in the name of getting operations up and running quickly.

As such, the first session talks looked to contextualise the current state of the cloud. The speakers examined some of the lessons learnt from the migration, and some of the next steps that organisations can take to optimise operations.

Optimisation

One of the issues, cloud sprawl, was tackled in ITAM Intelligence Principal Consultant’s Kylie Fowler talk.

She warned that organisation could face a financial reckoning in 2021 and 2022 as the cost of inefficient and redundant cloud systems, though small, add up over time.

“We’ve edged towards risk management and agility at the expense of cost control,” she warned.

As such, finding ways to reduce cloud spending and identifying bloat are important tasks for the years ahead. As a simple piece of advice, Fowler recommended simply turning something off as being the simplest way to remove an unnecessary component.

However, given the advantages offered by the Cloud, businesses can sometimes attempt to solve their problems by taking on more and more cloud capacity. Vicky Glynn, Head of Strategic Growth at Cloudsoft warned that this is not healthy for a business. As with all technologies, the advantages are only offered to those that use them intelligently.

Ultimately, rapid Cloud adoption presents an opportunity, precisely because of the many mistakes that organisations may have made – they provide an opportunity to find out what works and what doesn’t, allowing growth while mitigating risk.

The real mistake would be in not taking the time to fix them now.

Communication

Communication was another theme that came up across Cloud First 2021. Multiple delegates warned that IT operations, especially when it comes to the cloud, can be a black box. This makes demonstrating a connection between value and cost difficult for IT teams.

Furthermore, as IT teams deal with complex systems on a daily basis, the temptation is to simply chuck tools at them and add to that complexity. Then, when things go wrong, it is easy to point the finger at them. This, ultimately, erodes the trust between IT and leadership, destroying the basis of communication.

As the Cloud becomes integral to business, it is vital to empower IT teams to take account of the resulting increases in complexity.

Centrica’s Chris Patten noted that, when faced with two different groups with two different sets of value, having third-party mediators to balance up different approaches and desires is an effective communication tool.

Once this is done, both leadership and IT can make informed decisions about which parts of their cloud systems are creating true value and which are redundant.

In her talk, Dr Wendy Ng noted from her experience of creating a DevSecOps system at Experian, using the Cloud helps ensure that all teams across an organisation use similar tools and systems. Not only does this help promote transparency and communication, it helps create a culture of shared accountability.

Vaccination

In the third session, we heard from companies about how they had implemented their cloud projects. One of the most relevant presentations was from Christopher Wroath, Director of Digital, NHS NES. He told us how the Cloud was integral in delivering Scotland’s Covid vaccination scheme.

As a highly complex logistics project, the vaccination programme needed a way to coordinate large numbers of people across different systems and diffuse geographies. Cloud technology offered a way to bring about rapid change in such a complex system.

For example, a cloud system removed the need to build or update a location’s IT systems or databases – so long as an internet connection was available, a public cloud could be accessed. Not only did this save time, it meant that remote locations with minimal infrastructure could be connected to the system, so long as they had an internet connection.


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In addition, the vaccination programme had to coordinate across multiple health authorities, with numerous key decision-makers and stakeholders. The Cloud meant that decisions could be made quickly and transparently, with enough clarity to make sure they were acted upon quickly.

As with many of the projects delivered to meet challenges from the pandemic, the vaccination programme provides a model for future IT projects. Wroath noted that one of the key lessons from the vaccination was that the NHS now understands the power of the Cloud to develop systems and has the capacity to implement projects quickly.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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