The cloud continuum: Futureproofing your business for what’s next

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For many businesses, the accelerated adoption of cloud services is reshaping their operations in remarkable ways. This trend aligns with what I call “digital perseverance” – the belief that an organization’s ability to persevere and remain resilient amid uncertainty is based on its investments in digital technologies. This increased focus on technology underscores how imperative it is to choose a cloud service provider that becomes a true partner supporting your organization’s transformation.

In a recent survey of Fortune 500+ business and IT decision makers focusing on the real business value of cloud technologies, 9 out of 10 respondents said they are likely to make changes to their cloud environments in the next year or two.

This is a clear sign that organizations continue to focus on the value of the cloud as the greatest enabler of their businesses and are laser focused on making the changes necessary to both optimize and futureproof for what’s next.

Powered by the cloud: the metaverse

A good example of what is next: the metaverse – an always-on digital world that connects to aspects of the physical world to enable shared experiences, regardless of location, powered by the cloud. In millions of households, people are already embracing the metaverse to enhance their gaming experience and to safely connect and explore together.

There is even greater potential in an enterprise metaverse that can help commercial organizations tackle today’s hybrid challenges by creating a more immersive workplace. Although still nascent, enterprise metaverse experiences are already here. I’ve seen the metaverse used to create a virtual replica of physical offices, allowing globally distributed employees to connect as if they were physically together, even when they’re not.

Some manufacturing companies are using technologies like digital twins – a virtual replica of a physical space or thing – to embrace an industrial metaverse to create more efficient and sustainable supply chains.

Choosing a cloud services provider

Organizations planning to modify their cloud environments must think carefully about how decisions made now will prepare them to embrace future opportunities. This forward-looking approach requires a cloud service provider that:

  • prioritizes your business objectives,
  • co-innovates with you to ensure your success, and
  • provides technology to serve your business outcomes instead of their own.

The digitization of business processes that drive more impact in your top and bottom line is critical. At a minimum, the cloud provider should be able to deliver integrity, reliability, scalability, security, and a pragmatic and flexible approach to hybrid and multicloud environments. But there’s more to consider as businesses face increasing pressure to thrive and lead in today’s competitive environment.

Here are three factors you must evaluate when selecting a primary cloud provider that will help your business succeed today and futureproof for what’s yet to come.

1. Is there a comprehensive offering without unnecessary agendas?

The right cloud provider should help simplify your company’s journey at every stage and across the entirety of your organization.

The value of the cloud is in its ability to apply a comprehensive set of services that seamlessly integrates with your current technology footprint, and helps your company accomplish its goals, even as they evolve. This includes giving employees tools to connect, collaborate and learn. As well as automating certain tasks for efficiency and providing an environment for developers to create cloud-native applications.

By offering productivity, data, analytics, and other automation and visualization tools, your staff can better centralize and access insights for enhanced business performance. As labor and skills shortages remain a challenge, the importance of simplified employee experiences and easy migration paths cannot be underestimated.

However, not all workloads need to be moved to the cloud, and often there are applications that either could be retired or kept on-premises.

So, how can you tell if a cloud provider meets these requirements? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What components of my organization’s application portfolio really need to be eliminated rather than migrated to the cloud?
  • How can a provider help with product obsolescence?
  • How does my organization think about collaborative or cloud-native applications?
  • Should we consider low-code or no-code capabilities to replace legacy apps?

2. Do you have total confidence in the provider’s security and data protection?

A true cloud partner should help secure your data AND provide assurances that it will not use that data for its own gain.

Security and agility remain primary considerations as your organization prepares to embrace the next wave of cloud technologies, including the enterprise metaverse. We live in an era where data is an organization’s competitive advantage, making it even more important to find a cloud provider that can help you centralize, understand, and leverage your data estate, while meeting specific security and compliance needs. By doing this, you’ll be better equipped to discover insights using the power of AI.

Ask yourself the following questions to determine the approach to security and data privacy that will best serve your organization:

  • What is my organization’s cyber strategy and how are we centering security as the foundation for our digital strategy?
  • Does my organization know how potential cloud providers will handle our data?
  • Will the data remain the sole property of my organization or will the cloud provider have access to it?

3. Is our a partnership where success is a shared goal?

Your cloud provider should understand your business and lean in to co-innovate, co-develop and co-engineer to help you reach your goals.

As the cloud continues to mature, the ways organizations are using it are becoming more complex. Many businesses – perhaps even yours – rely on cloud providers to help transform business processes and uncover new revenue streams faster than they can on their own. Partnering with a cloud provider that is willing and able to dedicate its own resources to helping your business succeed will help you get to the finish line faster than you could alone.

The right cloud provider should measure its success based on your success. Its people should be willing to get their hands dirty to shape, implement and adjust your cloud services to help reach your desired business outcomes. You should also award bonus points to the provider that brings the power of a global partner ecosystem to tailor apps, fill gaps and ensure a smooth transformation.

What model of partnership best fits your business? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does success look like for my business today, next year, and 10 years from now?
  • Does my cloud provider have a proven model for dedicating co-innovation and co-development resources to my business for the long term to help me succeed?
  • Do any of the cloud providers I’m considering have areas of business that compete directly with my organization?
  • How might that competition impact the overall partnership between my organization and the cloud provider?

In today’s world, digital technologies have become the foundation of every organization’s success. While no business can be 100% resilient, what we’ve learned over the past two years is that those that have invested in building a digital technology foundation are far more resilient than others. The difference between leading an industry or getting left behind can come down to the choices made today regarding which cloud provider you choose as your primary partner.

Judson Althoff is executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Microsoft.

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