The COVID-19 pandemic has marked a time of unprecedented uncertainty — health, safety, economy: It's all been tossed in the air.
For CIOs, uncertainty meant putting off or rushing through cloud migrations, hoping that whatever they chose was the right call.
"Everyone's got their own priorities," said Liz Herbert, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. "If you're furloughing operations people, you may have put off cloud migrations. But for most organizations, it's been a really good time to do it."
Whether that cloud migration timing was right depends on the organization. Those rolling in cash could use it to continue migrations or accelerate transformation plans and kept their employees busy.
Those that didn't pour resources into technology may be falling behind, though it's not too late to catch up, or even leapfrog, into an entirely new platform.
Migrations kept workers employed
For those sectors not decimated by the pandemic, migrating to the cloud kept people employed.
Organizations "didn't want to lay off people, so they had extra time when other things weren't happening," said Herbert. "It's a perfect time to reallocate those resources."
Retaining talent also means not trying to find and train new talent whenever life returns to a more even keel — plus it gave employees one less thing to worry about during uncertain times.
Enterprises were also more likely to find good deals on better and more high quality resources, said Herbert, for those enterprises that could afford it.
Failure to migrate could mean falling behind
Proceeding with migrations, or pushing schedules ahead, also meant gaining an advantage over competitors. Often, it was organizations that started before the pandemic who were in the best position for migration during this year, said Kevin Harbauer, chief technology officer at Ephesoft and a member of the LA CTO Forum.
"Organizations that have been investing in automation and moving to the cloud and really modernizing were able to flip the switch to be in a remote workforce pretty quickly and pretty easily," said Harbauer. Capital One closed its last data center in 2020, a move partly enabled by being able to go to the cloud early on in the pandemic.
"Being in a cloud-based company gives you that resiliency," Allison Perkel, VP, Technology at Capital One, said at the Lesbians Who Tech & Allies Debug 2020 Summit. "You have these pieces built in so you can scale all your processes."
Organizations that held back because they thought the pandemic might be a short-term event are now "behind the curve," said Harbauer. "Even when the pandemic is over, remote work isn't going away and digital transformation is becoming even more critical."
Migrations can still happen
Not all is lost for enterprises who have waited. In fact, those with the oldest platforms may be able to leapfrog ahead, said Herbert.
It's a mixed blessing. On one hand, these organizations are typically in a position where they have no choice but to make a move. "They're working on burning platforms where things are going off support," and the professionals who built it and know what is where and how it works are all retired or close to it, Herbert said. The situation may feel dire.
On the other hand, if an enterprise hasn't been steadily investing in a new platform, they can jump to something entirely new and right at the cutting edge. "It's a dramatic situation and they can start fresh," Herbert said.
These companies can also take advantage of further technology accelerations that happened during the pandemic.
"No one's missed the boat," said Jennifer Curry, senior vice president of product and technology at INAP. Companies that weren't yet in a cloud journey still have options, especially around technologies such as network as a service, managed services and security at the edge.
"If you were in the middle of your [cloud] journey or you haven't even started it, I don't think that it matters," Curry said. "Providers learned a lot during this past year. These companies will be able to take advantage of that."