Five trends we'll see in 2021 as enterprises accelerate their cloud modernisation journeys

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With light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, here are the key ways businesses will make the most of their investment in cloud

Cloud has been the essential enterprise technology of 2020. It has provided organisations with the flexible and scalable platform they needed to weather the Covid-19 crisis.

Now with light at the end of the tunnel for 2021, what trends will emerge in cloud computing and digital transformation? Here are our top five.

Trend 1: The modernisation era

In the first phase of adoption, cloud was seen as an IT-driven technical toolset. Early adoption was highly cost-centric with IT teams carrying out lift-and-shift migrations (data centre exits). Later, the rise of the chief digital officer and product leaders using the cloud for business experimentation drove more revenue-increasing use of cloud tools.

The pandemic has pushed us into a third era, where joining the dots between large scale cost-centric and IT-driven work and business revenue-driven lighthouse projects will open the door for larger scale enterprise-wide modernisations.

Trend 2: Continuity-driven transformation

The pandemic will likely drive a new major category of business value from cloud in 2021 - business continuity-led cases. Organisations have had business continuity needs reset at an unprecedented scale and they will increasingly set out on cloud modernisation projects with the aim of ensuring they can fully function when hit by similar crises in future.

Organisations for whom the cloud was a lifeline during the pandemic, e.g. for remote working, will further prepare for future continuity events by removing human beings and physical data centres from their supply chains, and relying ever more on their cloud infrastructure and platform services providers.

Trend 3: Next level resilience

Meanwhile, under lockdown the lifeline to consumers has been online services from supermarkets, banks and so on, and this has made us all see the importance of the underlying technology. Historically, online food shopping has been something of a luxury, popular with the young and more affluent, while the majority of consumers would still go to the supermarket to pick up their groceries. This meant that if services went down, this would not have affected the majority of people or the most vulnerable in society.

Fast forward to Spring 2020 and the importance is clear. Service outages in lockdown could have caused real public health crises.

The consequence is that certain digital services will now be understood as needing a level of resilience and scale that is closer to national critical infrastructure. Digital services and their associated supply chains will have to be more robust, more secure, and more scalable than ever before.

Trend 4: Tech at the board (finally)

For the past 10-15 years, technology decision-making has been a very delegated, cost-centric conversation, with the CIO often reporting into the COO or the CFO. That often led to budgets being reduced and IT becoming very much a service function, measured on cost. IT teams may be on hand to fix printers and hand out laptops, but boardrooms rarely saw technology as central to their business strategy.

2020 has changed this. Board executives and leadership teams will now prioritise decisions on technology strategy and investments as they now understand how essential it is to a firm's survival and future. This is likely to drive far more enterprise scale modernisation initiatives.

Trend 5: Don't just migrate, modernise

Which brings us to our final prediction. In 2021, delivering the full promise of the cloud at scale will see organisations more fully embrace modernising their environments.

Scaled cloud migrations have always been a mix of more basic lift-and-shift of applications with some elements of platform and application modernisation. However, new opportunities presented by different technology architectures are only available through modernisation.

By using modern architectures, such as APIs, microservices and cross-channel experience, much more rapid innovation of customer services and experiences is possible.

With the pandemic demonstrating more than anything the art of the possible when true technology modernisation meets a real appetite for change, organisations will look more deeply into investing in modernisation to transform themselves into adaptable organisations based on modern cloud technology. This will allow them to respond to their markets and to future unpredictable events better and faster than in 2020.

Dave Chapman is Head of Strategy and Professional Services at Cloudreach

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