Common Themes from Cloud Adoption
A firm’s journey to the cloud varied based on a given firm’s specific facts and circumstances. Several firms noted that cloud migration was not a simple, linear process, even with adequate preparation, and there was no easy formulaic way to conduct a migration, given the unique circumstances of each firm. Despite the difference in each firm’s journey, however, some common themes emerged regarding their experiences.
- SaaS products are used broadly by firms: Many firms, particularly smaller firms, interacted with the cloud by consuming mostly off-the-shelf SaaS products not directly related to their core business. This consumption is to be distinguished from those firms that build SaaS applications in the cloud. This “buy” over “build” approach constituted one of the earlier and more expeditious steps that firms took to move into the cloud. Most commonly, firms migrated certain operational functions using well-known, established SaaS applications. SaaS products for worker productivity and collaboration, such as email systems,24 in particular, have seen considerable usage by firms. Use of other SaaS products for customer relationship management (CRM), financial account and human resources needs are also common.
- Rollouts of cloud infrastructure tend to be targeted, incremental, and iterative: Firms typically took a measured approach instead of launching a wholesale migration of the business to the cloud, with the realization that unexpected issues or challenges could emerge, requiring modifications to how a project was rolled out, what kind of talent was needed, or what the projected financial impact might be. Some firms took the route of identifying discrete workflows, applications or business domains to be refactored, rehosted and/or relaunched in the cloud. Examples included analytics platforms for wealth management clients, workflow and imaging systems, consolidation of a firm’s data reporting infrastructure or setting up risk calculations in the cloud. Regardless of the scope, firms typically started with an initial pilot projects testing use case before launch. As mentioned before, as a precautionary measure, some firms elected to send less sensitive data or less mission-critical workloads into the cloud first. Others, however, were more proactive in migrating mission-critical work to the cloud to gain a quicker competitive advantage.
- Focus on governance, cloud security, and training: Firms noted that it was beneficial to expend significant resources to develop governance and cloud security policies and procedures to help ensure a successful move to the cloud, with cloud security generally defined as encompassing the safeguarding of data and systems associated with cloud computing. The development of appropriate governance and cloud security protocols to attend to the necessary security requirements could take several months or even a few years. The use of experienced third- party providers, including cloud service providers, can assist with this development. Some large firms assembled governance committees across business functions to set broader policies for what kind of data or work could be moved and to set guidelines for implementing necessary controls to prevent loss or theft of sensitive data. A completion of a risk assessment can be useful when defining these cloud-based policies and controls. Firms noted that implementing training programs for staff of such policies and controls were labor-intensive but helpful steps to migrate to a new IT environment. They also noted the importance of training to maintain awareness of ongoing cybersecurity risks.
- Organization and cultural changes often accompany cloud adoption: Some firms noted that optimizing cloud capabilities required changes in the way people work, particularly as it relates to application development. Cloud adoption often coincided with firms reassessing their areas of technology expertise frequently, with existing staff being retrained or new staff with cloud expertise brought in. Firms also viewed enhanced cloud capabilities as enabling greater responsiveness to business needs and generally sought to implement agile workstreams that would more tightly weave software development and operations together.25 With these changes, firms hoped to be able to enhance time-to-market capabilities and limit the potential for silos. Several firms also note that the organizational and cultural changes needed to embrace the disruptions to workforce and process that accompanied cloud migration were a key component to a successful cloud migration.