The ability for companies to immediately respond to the need to support a work-from-home environment depended, in large part, upon where those firms were already in terms of their digitization journeys. For some, the shift was relatively easy, thanks to an existing embrace of cloud-based platforms and systems.
For others, not so much: Continued reliance on legacy infrastructure, which itself often depends on manual intervention to function properly, created a panic for some companies unable to make the move to remote working without major roadblocks.
Speaking with PYMNTS, Tim Hooley, chief technologist, EMEA, FSI at Red Hat, explained why organizations continue to delay their cloud migrations, and offered a guide to overcoming the sense of being overwhelmed and making progress in the journey toward fully automated back offices.
Prioritization Is Key
Before any technological investments are made, Hooley advises organizations to first take an introspective look at their current apps, workflows and processes and identify which aspects are falling short.
“Really look at your applications from a business perspective first,” he said. “If you have an application that’s consumer-facing, for instance, is it doing the business functions you want it to be doing, or does it need to be modernized, changed or upgraded in some way?”
It’s important for businesses of all sizes to understand that a cloud migration is not a binary, one-step process. Rather, it’s a series of steps that can be made as quickly or as slowly as a firm would like to move. Further, noted Hooley, companies can decide to what extent they would like to navigate this journey, whether they choose to fully overhaul their back offices or simply modernize several key aspects of the enterprise.
He also advised organizations to first invest in their data centers in preparation for any cloud migration, which will support full optimization and automation later down the road.
As organizations proceed, they begin to step into the DevOps “culture,” Hooley said, in which operations professionals begin working as developers and with developers to modernize an application, whether that means rewriting it for the cloud, or migrating it to the cloud.
“Modernizing some simple applications first can [provide] a feel for modern technology,” he noted. “As you do that, you start to think about investing in hybrid cloud infrastructure … Full automation comes at the end of the journey.”
The Inevitable Hurdles
There is no guarantee that this process will go off without a hitch. Indeed, for certain sectors, the cloud migration comes with more risks and challenges than others.
In the financial services space, for instance, payments infrastructure is often the last to be modernized, yet is often among the most important functions in the back office. This is because migrating payments operations to the cloud is one of the trickiest processes a firm in their modernization journey can have.
“I’ve seen firms that have very modern technology in their current accounts systems and their loan systems, and yet their payment systems are 20 years old,” said Hooley. “They’ve been difficult to change because they tend to be high-volume, have very little allowable downtime … You can’t break your payment system. It’s the most important system in many financial services firms.”
Existing global payment standards were not built to encourage data capture, while financial services firms must also face the risk of cyberattacks and other security considerations as they modernize.
But by taking the initial steps to optimize data in preparation for a shift to the cloud, these companies (and others) can face less friction in the process.
Hooley also emphasized the importance of cloud infrastructure and enterprise modernization solution providers working together and collaborating in an effort to promote standardization and interoperability. Cloud innovators can develop sophisticated fraud protection tools and other high-performance solutions. When these tools are built with an integration-first mindset, they can support an easier shift to the cloud for organizations in need of tools that facilitate a seamless ecosystem of connected cloud apps.
Although the process may not be easy, companies have quickly woken up to the importance of migrating to the cloud and achieving full back-office automation. It’s important for businesses to work with trusted vendors that can guide them through this migration, too, noted Hooley.
But overall, what’s key to ensuring the success of a cloud migration initiative is to remain focused on why firms decide to take the first steps.
“It’s really important to remember at every stage that the reason for making this investment and modernizing is really to make your business more competitive,” Hooley said.