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How COVID-19 Has Accelerated the Shift to Cloud Computing

How COVID-19 Has Accelerated the Shift to Cloud Computing

The global health crisis resulted in many unexpected and difficult adaptations. As we surely must recognize and mourn the trials and tragedy, we should also acknowledge and celebrate a few positive outcomes that emerged through the efforts and ingenuity of individuals and groups who, through necessity, found ways to accelerate innovation. One of those positive outcomes was the opportunity for the accelerated evolution of the cloud computing market.

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Cloud deployment provides the agility and scalability that can help companies weather crises. The sudden shift to remote work in 2020 presented an opportunity for the accelerated adoption of the Cloud. According to a recent survey from Flexera, 27% of leaders mentioned a significant increase in Cloud spending due to COVID-19, Additionally, Gartner predicts that worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services will grow 18.4% in 2021 to $304.9 billion.  

Many past conversations around cloud computing were about modern infrastructure for quicker innovation, faster time to market, cost optimization, and flexibility.  However, the pandemic has brought new priorities into focus, such as remote workforce management, cybersecurity, always-on experiences, and business agility. 

This article will discuss how the pandemic has prompted companies to accelerate their move to the cloud to remain viable.

Adaptability, Agility, and the Normalization of Remote Work 

In May 2020, Gartner reported 74% of CFOs intended to increase remote work opportunities for their organizations permanently. Cloud computing was central to this paradigm shift as were the business systems, portals and video conferencing tools that enabled the expansion of the workplace into the home offices, kitchens, and basements of every active employee. Without the scalability of cloud deployments, some businesses failed. With the cloud, many digitally mature businesses thrived. Remote work became normal for many of us and there seems to be no turning back.

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In truth, the move to remote work was already well underway prior to 2020. Businesses were already embracing cloud-based workspaces with success. Digitally mature workers and organizations were recognizing the adaptability and agility of cloud-based technology-facilitated through email, messaging tools, mobile apps, PWAs, and even VOIP as a standard of telephony. The pandemic merely accelerated existing trends and a desire by workers and organizations to be always on, always available, and highly dependable.

A focus on modifications and modernizations that takes advantage of cloud-native features are key to enabling that agility within organizations. Low-code and no-code integration has leveled the playing field for many small to mid-sized organizations, accelerating development and reducing reliance on IT and DevOps teams. Cloud environments empower workers to be productive, working from wherever they are, whenever they would like, and however, they wish.

When the Collaboration Is Cloud-Based, It Doesn’t Matter Where Your Workplace Is Located

Cloud-based collaboration means it doesn’t matter where your workplace is – even if it is in an office! Web-based business applications with their mobility and centrality of data have made possible a workspace that is consistent and flexible beyond what could have been imagined even a decade ago. In many cases, there is very little difference in the employee experience in or out of the office. Methods of interaction are nearly identical regardless of the locations or time zones of the employee and the employee’s coworkers. Increasingly, those connections occur through the internet and portals.

Gartner.com describes an intranet as “a network internal to an enterprise that uses the same methodology and techniques as the Internet but is accessible only to employees.” An intranet supports corporate communications, internal collaboration, and knowledge management. 

Portals are similar in that they serve as a gathering point for people who have an established relationship. Those relationships may include employees, vendors, and established customers.

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Unlike websites that are designed to keep visitors engaged with content for longer stretches of time, intranets and portals are created to streamline workflows, serving what is needed efficiently so visitors can move on to the next task.

Regardless of the venue, the new paradigm is that all meeting spaces have a virtual element. Work continues as workers flow fluidly between in-office, remote or hybrid situations. The centralized storage and management of content necessarily require accessibility that serves all the modalities cloud makes possible.

The Cloud’s Impact on Remote Workforce Management & Security

In this new paradigm for work, management and security require some evolution as well. Managing a workforce remotely is a challenge for many managers who must learn to focus on outcomes more than the physical presence of the worker.

Back in 1911, in his Principles of Scientific Management, Frederick Winslow Taylor provided four principles for managers to increase employee performance through scientific methods. More than a century later they remain uncannily relevant, and each can be helped by technology. The third principle urges managers to “Monitor worker performance and provide instruction and training when needed.”

Taylor was suggesting data collection specifically for the purposes of instruction and training. His principle was intended to be productive, not punitive. Modern managers sometimes miss this point. As such, employees (who may never even know they are being monitored) miss the benefit Taylor intended, and employers miss the opportunity to strengthen their workforce.

Modern managers can collect all manner of data, in vast amounts, in real-time.

A recent article from the Brookings Institution described a number of legal methods of surveilling employees. These included the use of keylogger software; webcam surveillance during video calls; geolocation tracking; and monitoring of email, social media, and collaborations tools. Legally, workers have little expectation of privacy when on company grounds or when using company devices. Most of us realize and accept that those terms are in our employment contracts. The new workplace, however, potentially blurs those traditional boundary lines when personal devices are used for business purposes and the workplace is virtual.

As remote work becomes increasingly normal, those boundaries will be clarified. (The people who read small type and write EULAs and contracts will see to that!) In the meantime, better managers will use the data responsibly for mapping of trends, routing of tasks and streamlining of communications.

Managers should also recognize there is evidence that the flexibility of remote work may itself boost efficiency. Greatplacetowork.com surveyed employees at 715 Fortune 500 companies, receiving 800,000 responses in 2019-2020. The surprising results of this 2-year survey were that productivity for at-home work was as good or better than the traditional modality. Among the reasons given were the lack of a daily commute and shorter personal meetings. Employees simply had more time and used it productively. 

The pivot to remote and hybrid workforces brings with it challenges to security. Now that anyone can work everywhere – at home, in the office or cross-teaming from both, the securing of data and personal information takes on brand new challenges. The days of on-premises hosting will soon be gone and security no longer means a keypad on a server room door.

Once skeptical of cloud security, organizations are now realizing the path to the highest security actually comes through migration from old IT infrastructure to the cloud. Virtualization between multiple data centers, automated software patching, and the staffing and actual physical protection provided by large hosting services far surpass what is possible for most organizations. Trusted cloud deployment enables secure remote work across a myriad of devices and locations while maintaining stability. As large financial institutions, government entities, and global health organizations (WHO) have embraced cloud deployment, trust has been earned. Today’s cloud deployment empowers organizations with a centrally managed, compliant, secure, and highly optimized global infrastructure. 

Evolving Digital Experience through PaaS and SaaS offerings 

Now that digital is a table-stake for modern businesses, organizations are incorporating the cloud into their development environments. In our remote world, the underlying architecture that powers these experiences has never been more essential.

PaaS (platform-as-a-service) options enable organizations to reduce time to market, achieve operational efficiency, and scale to meet sporadic traffic spikes and declines. The PaaS model provides an environment for application development, allowing multiple developers to coordinate their efforts regardless of location. DevOps teams, no longer burdened with hardware maintenance, can focus on more creative work while maintaining control of the creative process. For organizations with DevOps teams, this is often preferable to SaaS deployment, which offers easier deployment, but less control of the process.

Looking to the Future with Cloud Computing

Much has changed since 2020 began. For many of us, priorities have been realigned. Where we live and how we manage our work and family lives have been reexamined. Technology has taken on an increased role in all our lives and nearly all of it has depended in cloud computing at some level.

Hopefully some of the lessons we take with us will make the future challenges easier to bear.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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