Redefining Cloud Value in the Post-Pandemic World

Redefining Cloud Value in the Post-Pandemic World

Clare Hickie, CTO, EMEA at Workday, discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic heightened business demand for a shift to the cloud, and how CIOs can prove the cloud’s value to their organisations.

How should CIOs be thinking about defining the value of cloud to other business leaders in the post-pandemic world? We connected with Clare Hickie, CTO, EMEA at Workday, to learn more on how organisations have accelerated their push to the cloud despite the impact of COVID-19. Below we share key takeaways from our discussion:

Clare, what are you hearing from customers in relation to how the pandemic has impacted their progress in moving to the cloud?

“I’ve been massively impressed with how much technology leaders have accomplished during the pandemic. We’ve seen a big shift in cloud adoption over the last two years. The day-to-day uncertainty forced CIOs to seize the day and push through on their investment in cloud computing.

“In some respects, COVID-19 has already created the business case for the cloud. It’s really about how deep organisations want to go on delivering true digital transformation and innovation.

“We’re seeing and hearing that from many of our customers. Of course, it was borne from necessity, but we’ve  seen an acceleration when it comes to digital transformation. There’s still work to do for many companies, and not all businesses can accelerate at the same pace, but I’ve been inspired by how CIOs have embraced change to deliver innovation for their organisations.”

When making the business case for cloud, what are the first things CIOs should be thinking about, particularly when the landscape is as uncertain as it is today?

“When talking to many CIOs, one question that resonates is, “Is it too late to move to the cloud?” The answer is clearly “no,” but I can’t help highlighting how we saw companies move their entire workforce to a remote model overnight. Much of that was only made possible due to the power of the cloud, through its delivery model and those all-important data insights that enabled critical and timely decisions to be made. If CIOs, and even CEOs, were ever in doubt of why cloud computing is the future, then COVID-19 has put that into perspective.

“There are a few ways to think about making the business case, but a fundamental question should be, “What happens to my on-premise costs if I don’t migrate to the cloud?” It’s about understanding the total cost of ownership, such as the costs to run the organization today. What are the power costs? Resource costs? What do I need to budget for the next hardware refresh? And what other services are needed to keep the lights on?

“Businesses shouldn’t only be thinking about the cloud from a hard-savings perspective. When an organization deploys Workday, for example, there’s a much broader set of benefits when it comes to defining business value.”

Can you elaborate on the other value elements you were talking about?

“I’d start by figuring out what return on investment (ROI) actually means to your business. If it’s just how much you’re saving on IT and how it impacts the time it takes to achieve ROI, then you’re only measuring one piece of the puzzle. But what we’re seeing is a bigger picture. Comparing costs is important, but think about the cloud’s impact on revenue. How will it drive customer key performance indicators? Think about how the tool will increase employees’ productivity, and ultimately, how they’re empowered to work smarter.

“The cloud isn’t a final destination, it’s the foundation for change, adaptability, and future innovation.

“All of these things have numbers behind them, impact the bottom line, and should be considered in the mix. Similarly with system availability and business continuity. Planned and unplanned maintenance cost money—and cloud can significantly reduce those expenses.

“Value is also directly aligned with innovation. How can IT teams be redeployed to focus on innovation once they’ve had the burden of infrastructure management removed from their roles? That’s a hard one to measure in euros or dollars, but in getting the business focused on future innovation, I’d argue it’s priceless.”

I know you’re involved with the CIO Advisory Council, which includes Workday customers. What are the key investment areas for those IT leaders and where are they looking to bring more value to the business?

“I don’t think CIOs have ever been under the spotlight as they are today, and that gives them a real opportunity to shine. One thing I’m hearing is that many CIOs are not worried about being too cautious, but it’s actually the opposite—they’re driving bold decisions. They’re driving their businesses hard to ensure full value from their investment. I also hear from our CIO Advisory Council that they’re supporting a cloud-first approach and partnering with their business peers in doing so. 

“On the other hand, I also hear how some companies are looking at the cloud as a source of IT productivity improvements, rather than a driver of real transformation—but that’s where the real value is. The cloud is great for improving efficiency, but it’s also about driving real innovation and new sources of revenue that cloud either enables or accelerates.”

Recent thought leadership from McKinsey discusses cloud as being about much more than a mechanism for migrating from on-premise, and how “transforming in the cloud” is actually a critical component for business innovation. How do you see that?

“It’s a follow-on from the above answer, really. The cloud isn’t a final destination, it’s the foundation for change, adaptability, and future innovation. McKinsey sums this up really well. Speed and scale are two vital attributes for innovation, and the cloud delivers both in abundance.

The work from McKinsey that you’re referring to looks at transforming “in” the cloud, through rejuvenation, innovation, acceleration, and the creation of new business models. What this relates to is how the cloud delivers the speed, scale, innovation, and productivity that digital businesses need today and as they grow into the future.

“Businesses shouldn’t just be thinking about the cloud from a hard-savings perspective. When you deploy Workday, for example, there is a much broader set of benefits when it comes to defining business value.

“To my earlier point around value and ROI, some businesses take an overly narrow view of cloud value and where they can extract maximum value from the cloud, which can hold them back from identifying its true potential.”

What advice would you give CIOs trying to sell the value of the cloud to other business leaders?

“I think most IT leaders are on the same page, but it isn’t just an exercise in moving systems, processes, and data into the cloud. Businesses have to buy into the broader transformation agenda, otherwise all they’ll end up doing is shifting on-premise challenges onto a different delivery model. “Going back to one of my first answers, what happens if the business doesn’t move to the cloud? Not just from a cost perspective, but from an innovation standpoint, from a customer perspective, and from an employee point of view?

“The pandemic totally changed the landscape, but there will be future challenges, and IT must get ahead of how the business will respond to such uncertainty. In some respects, COVID-19 has already created the business case for the cloud. It’s really about how deep organisations want to go on delivering true digital transformation and innovation.”

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