On July 8, 2021 Noord hosted a multi-stream virtual boardroom in association with Sungard Availability Services, Dell Technologies and VMware. The event consisted of an opening session, a choice of three topic-specific boardrooms, and a closing panel discussion.
Martin McCormack, CEO of the College of Anaesthesiologists of Ireland, kicked off the session by sharing his organisation’s cloud journey. Initially, the organisation had been burdened with very inflexible architecture coupled with legacy IT infrastructure. As a result, it suffered from federated data and an undifferentiated cyber security & risk management strategy.
Having decided to embark on its cloud journey, the organisation identified the need to develop a business strategy underpinned by an ambitious vision and supported by technology to enable new ways of working. Along with setting key business goals, it attempted to demystify digital transformation among its employees and gain buy-in from the board. The strategy aimed to break down siloed ways of working internally while improving patient safety and care externally. Ultimately, the organisation succeeded in moving from digitalisation as a concept to digital transformation in practice.
Edwina Murphy, Team Lead Cloud Solutions (Europe) at Sungard Availability Services, noted that the pandemic had certainly accelerated some cloud journeys, with many organisations being forced to adopt technology in weeks rather than months – without implementing a strategy or consulting key stakeholders, which had implications for cost, management and governance. However, not all companies had embraced the cloud during the pandemic. In fact, many had been struck by analysis paralysis when faced with the complexities of cloud implementation and internal skills shortages. While there is no one-cloud-fits-all approach, any cloud transformation starts with developing a strategy and asking how customers, employees and the organisations as a whole stand to benefit.
Boardroom 1: Top Hybrid Cloud Adoption Challenges
This boardroom session was hosted by Edwina Murphy and Leon Godwin, Specialist – Cloud Technical Sales (Europe), who were both representing Sungard Availability Services.
Leon referred to the Flexera State of the Cloud Report 2021, which outlines that the top challenges of moving to the cloud are security, cost, governance, skills and migration. He cited a real-life case study in which a large retail bank had embarked on a cloud journey and had been forced to undertake remediation efforts, which had proved very costly. In the subsequent inquiry into the failure, it was found that the bank had failed to define the success criteria for its cloud migration from the outset – a crucial lesson for other organisations migrating to the cloud.
One attendee, offering an insight into their cloud journey, noted that their head office was in Japan, which presented specific challenges. Overcoming the cultural challenge had involved educating the board on the cloud, including its configuration and controls, and busting the myth that data stored on the cloud is less secure than on premises. This education piece had been essential, as the board was particularly risk-averse and resistant to change. Overcoming the regulatory challenge had involved assessing the data held by certain apps and which posed the most risk, then ensuring compliance with the relevant regulations, which differed between Europe and Asia.
Another participant stated that many businesses had found themselves using the cloud without realising it, given the rapid take-up of communication applications such as Zoom and MS Teams during the pandemic. Aware that they would ultimately have to move other applications over to the cloud, the organisation had started from the concept of business improvement and looked at how the cloud could drive increased availability, scalability, usability and security.
Boardroom 2: Tackling the App Modernisation Journey and its Challenges
This boardroom session was hosted by Guy Bartram, Product Marketing & Competitive Intelligence Specialist, and Alex Tanner, Lead Solutions Architect, who were both representing VMware.
Guy noted that key themes cited by participants included the challenges of moving to new infrastructure such as Kubernetes and the importance of ensuring security in new, less controlled environments. He then provided a general overview of the topic, noting that 68% of organisations are expecting to increase spending on hybrid and multi-cloud. Alongside this, two thirds of companies reported seeing an increased strain on their IT resources during the pandemic. He explained that when moving to the cloud, organisations must first choose the right cloud provider, evaluate their current position and future milestones, and finally decide what to modernise and improve.
In a discussion on choosing the right cloud provider, one attendee, who was representing a global company with a presence in over 30 countries, said that they already had strong partnerships with Microsoft and AWS, which they favoured for their scalability and reliability, given their commercial weight on the market. Local cloud was not looked on favourably unless it could offer native capability.
Another key discussion point was how organisations deal with legacy IT infrastructure – a key pain point for many, and one which often prevented organisations from considering cloud in the first place. One attendee suggested that one way of looking at this is ‘peeling back the layers of functionality and releasing it into more flexible systems’. While cloud environments are very complex and it can be daunting to juggle multiple security and governance concerns, many companies are taking small steps into the cloud and are seeing quick wins.
Boardroom 3: Be Cloud Smart – Choosing the Right Cloud Platforms for Your Digital Transformation
This boardroom stream was hosted by Alex Sizeland, Senior Manager, EMEA Service Provider Presales, and Juergen Domnik, Director, Cloud Service Provider Program – EMEA, who were both representing Dell Technologies.
Alex noted that while many companies saw public and private cloud as a binary choice, choosing both is often a valid solution. For example, while global accessibility is a great driver of public cloud, IPR or cost is a great driver of private cloud. Regardless of the public/private cloud split that companies opt for, the key challenges of adopting cloud environments include the difficulties of migrating, the complexity of operating multiple cloud environments, and poor alignment with business requirements. Conversely, when measuring cloud progress, the top three metrics are cost efficiency/savings, delivery speed of products/services, and cost avoidance.
One participant said that they had started by thinking about what business problems they wanted to solve, getting the right people involved in those conversations and aligning different areas of the business to create a unified approach. Only then had the organisation considered the kinds of services they wanted to consume and potential providers. Lastly, they had looked at what the existing teams could migrate most easily – in other words, the low-hanging fruit.
Another participant noted that remote working had been a good way to introduce employees to the cloud, and that their company had used this experience as a springboard. However, remote working had also presented companies with a lack of control: one attendee said that applications like Slack posed a huge risk as they are easy to sign up to yet difficult to keep tabs on. In response, their organisation had attempted to strengthen the ‘human firewall’ through enhanced training and awareness campaigns.
Closing panel discussion
During the closing session, attendees of all three virtual boardrooms reconvened and were given the chance to ask any questions.
The topic of cloud culture was discussed at length, with the consensus being that cloud culture is a new way of thinking, planning and executing which must be led from an executive level. In particular, one attendee noted that enterprise architects need to be seen as business advisors and gatekeepers to prevent their organisations from making technological mistakes.
Reducing the risk of project failure was also mentioned. In that regard, it was felt that successful organisations are ones which take the time to understand their apps and ascertain where they can get the best return for the least effort. In addition, they recognise their limitations and will consider partnering with more experienced parties in the interest of reducing risk and unexpected costs.
Other topics covered included the challenges of ensuring data geolocation in a hybrid environment, ascertaining third-party security posture, and ensuring that apps in the cloud and on prem are in sync and up to date.