Was it love or just lockdown?

Relationships with third-party technology partners have been vital to helping businesses stay resilient and keep operations afloat throughout the coronavirus pandemic

Successfully navigating digital transformation efforts under such circumstances has been a challenge for organisations across the world. Companies of all shapes and sizes have been forced to think differently, adopt online productivity and collaboration tools to support staff at lightning speed, and in many cases, shift operations to the cloud.

Data from Synergy Research shows that enterprise spending on cloud infrastructure services reached $65 billion by the third quarter of 2020, up 28 percent from the third quarter of 2019. This was 3 percent higher than analysts expected before the pandemic hit, adding close to $1.5 billion of spending to that quarter alone. But were these investments in cloud underpinned by a desire to innovate or a necessity to act rapidly at a time of crisis?

To understand the breadth of challenges faced over this period of extreme uncertainty and look forward to how companies can maximise the potential of future working relationships with third party technology providers, we recently surveyed 500 senior decision makers in the UK at organisations with 500+ employees. Our findings demonstrate a complex web of evolving expectations, technology and human-based obstacles, and suspected unnecessary investment.

Evolving professional relationships

Over a third (35 percent) of respondents in our study stated they now have a greater understanding of what those working in IT functions within their company can help them achieve within the wider business. Thirty-one percent feel more motivated to learn about how their company can enhance its agility, and 30 percent feel more motivated to learn about how their company can use cloud technologies to enhance products and services.

There was also evidence of an increased assumption that respondents will volunteer thinking more often, with over a quarter (27 percent) admitting people now expect them to contribute more frequently/readily on decisions surrounding technology investments that support customers, and 24 percent on decisions surrounding technology investments that support employees.

Living through ‘unprecedented times’ is nothing new for organisations. Businesses have always had to deal with highs and lows and adapt accordingly. However, the pandemic has shown that the flexibility to maximise or minimise the impact of planned or unplanned opportunities or threats is vital. This shift has provided many of those surveyed with the chance to make strong cases for investment and accelerate decision-making.

When it comes to securing budget for technology investments today, nearly two thirds (62 percent) of respondents find this easier than 12 months ago, with just one in 10 finding it harder.

Cloud collaboration challenges

Worryingly, over half (54 percent) of respondents believe unnecessary investments in technologies have been made with third-party technology partners over the last 12 months, increasing to 85 percent amongst owners and proprietors. Two thirds (68 percent) report it remains to be seen if all investments made based on advice will be suitable long-term.

When it comes to working with third-party cloud partners, only 12 percent of respondents did not face challenges.

Top technology-based obstacles included concerns over data security, compliance and regulatory issues, unexpected or unpredictable costs, and issues surrounding the management of data and applications between on-premise and cloud storage. Top obstacles faced with employees at third-party cloud partners included an inability to admit fault or shortcomings when warranted, an unwillingness to compromise, a lack of honesty and integrity, a lack of empathy, and an inability to work through conflicts maturely.

Just like any relationship, solid working relationships do not ‘just happen’. They take time, patience, transparency, and input from two parties that truly want to work effectively together.

So what is the secret to a happy, long-lasting professional relationship?

Five key things to guide a successful cloud strategy with a third-party

Decide on an end goal together

As with any journey, it is key to have a clear destination in mind before embarking and discuss this as a team. Establish a clear strategy and identify the goals and outcomes you hope the chosen cloud will deliver.

Organisations require a clear vision that support long-term goals, but as the last 12 months has demonstrated, being able to adapt to sudden change – both technological and market orientated – must be accounted for too. When deciding on outsourced cloud solutions, select a vendor whose processes, procedures, and abilities best fit your planned journey, with the flexibility to alter course if priorities suddenly or drastically shift in a new direction.

Share everything with each other

It is important to discuss the entire asset inventory. Mature IT estates may include a variety of platforms such as colocation, clouds, and mainframe, and a careful analysis of each application is required if performance and functionality are to be maintained.

When it comes to migration, in some instances it will be straightforward. In other cases, the application can be refactored to allow for the new environment. Businesses must evaluate whether the best option is to keep the application ‘as is’ with a third-party, and either continue to run it internally, or look for a hosting vendor that can support it in its current state along with cloud offerings for a seamless, integrated solution.

Appreciate similarities and differences

Most large organisations use several clouds but may not know how to best use each one individually. In defining a cloud strategy, it is critical to understand differences in operation, management, scale, security, and governance for each. Business goals should drive cloud choice, not the other way around.

Be available and resilient

Availability and resiliency are key for every relationship and every business.

One strategy might include using the cloud for data vaulting, replication, and disaster recovery. In such cases, businesses must take a hard look at their recovery cloud vendor with their third-party for details such as which applications are business-critical, demanding the high availability that comes from an active environment, and therefore not appropriate for cloud-based recovery.

Establish a long-term plan

Only by both parties understanding the complete business picture can a solid cloud strategy be developed. This includes not only new and innovative technology elements, but also the current IT environment, and future proofing IT where possible.

For senior decision makers, it is key to choose the right partner and technology that can support them now and in the years to come. Organisations that do so will be able to better understand and leverage disparate elements into a single cohesive picture, knowing with confidence, that the cloud has a place in improving competitive advantage and assuring future success.

Future success

With organisations set to increase cloud spending as a result of the pandemic, it is clear many professionals feel more accountable than ever for the decisions they contribute regarding their company’s technology investments. With the pressure piling on, it is likely many will fall victim to common cloud mistakes.

By working in tandem with knowledgeable third-party cloud partners to adopt a cloud ready approach, that identifies possible problems before they occur and prevents a shift back to on-premises data storage when it goes wrong, organisations will be better place to reap the benefits the cloud can offer in 2021, and well beyond.

About the Author

Chris Huggett is Senior Vice President, EMEA & India at Sungard Availability Services. Sungard Availability Services (“Sungard AS”) keeps your business running all day, every day. Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe to understand their business objectives, identify gaps in their current infrastructure technology environment and tailor a plan to deliver the highly available, cloud connected infrastructure services they need to achieve their desired business outcomes.

Featured image: ©Carballo