Today's CIO has a central role to play in their organization's transformation and innovation strategy, and the cloud can help enable a number of these important initiatives.
However, a successful cloud strategy doesn't start with "the cloud." It starts with understanding the organizational structure, business processes and the existing value proposition in the market. In understanding those elements, a CIO can identify the business processes that need to be transformed to create a range of potential outcomes where cloud is uniquely positioned to support the organization's goals.
That being the case, organizations have a whole host of business priorities where they are looking to innovate with technology across different business stakeholders — whether that is taking new products to market, using data to gain competitive advantage, enhancing their operations, or rethinking their business platforms and ecosystem — that need to be considered as part of the cloud spend.
Organizations can enhance their transformation programs by thinking differently about cloud innovation.
Why CIOs need to change the cloud innovation conversation
CIOs can more quickly and strategically team with the business to align and advance cloud innovation strategies by reframing the cloud innovation conversation and planning process. Strategies include:
- Align business outcomes of various programs to identify shared priorities
- Look for overlapping technical requirements across various initiatives that could lead to economies of scale for talent/team utilization, operating model, reusable toolkits, etc.
- Assess current data and operations maturity to level-set with stakeholders on the organization's capacity for change
- Use scenario thinking and planning strategies to look into the future and clarify goals across business processes and outcomes to clearly set business, technical, and workforce requirements.
This business-lead approach to cloud innovation can help organizations to derive greater return on investment from their technology spend in alignment with their innovation vision.
How CIOs can reframe cloud innovation strategy
As organizations look to assess multiple cloud innovation initiatives, CIOs can group cloud innovation business requirements into four common categories (IT Operations, Data Strategy, Customer Experience Management, Distributed Ecosystems), each with a spectrum of potential desired outcomes.
Similarly, in terms of technical requirements, the research suggests four focus areas to align early technical program requirements (Operating Models, Adoption of Standards, Infrastructure Adaptation, Execution Strategy) with its own spectrum of implications and second-order impacts.
This framing can help CIOs not only with level-setting across business stakeholders and with assessing high-level technical and talent requirements related to cloud innovation, but it can also create a helpful foundation with key factors that drive future scenario thinking.
How CIOs can use scenario planning to illustrate their cloud possible
To illustrate the power of scenario planning, we can look at four possible future cloud innovation scenarios based on increasingly mature internal and external operations strategies on the one hand and data strategies on the other.
- Reactive responders may look to optimize business operations and infrastructures supporting work and the workforce with their focus on cloud security and infrastructure integrity having both internal and external benefits.
- Experience innovators may prioritize external customer experience over internal operations with a greater focus on cloud-enabled experiences.
- Proactive data defenders may take a more proactive cybersecurity and governance posture than other organizations to use data security and insights as a competitive differentiator.
- AI-fueled entrepreneurs may use more mature data and insights to tap into the age of with — where with AI, they can support workforce and operations strategies as well as customer experience and product strategies through powerful platforms and data-driven ecosystems.
Given each of the scenarios requires advancing the organization's operations and security posture, as well as advancing its data and insights strategies, CIOs can look to strengthen their thinking around integrated technology strategies to hypercharge their ability to deliver on these future scenarios. For example, thinking through a strong cloud cyber operating model with security by design principles can help rearchitect the work itself—supported by a workforce of cross-skilled, cross-teamed experts on cloud risks, regulations, and controls.
Equally, understanding how to tap into cloud ML strategies that bring AI capabilities into the cloud in new and different ways can also be part of the strategy, whether that is bringing proprietary AI models into the cloud as part of new applications and platforms, using pre-trained models and frameworks offered by the cloud providers, or exploring auto ML and low-code/no-code options for cloud-enabled AI programs to explore what's possible with cloud in the Age of With.
As organizations look to innovate their business, operations, customer, and workforce strategies, cloud technology will almost certainly be part of most innovation programs; however, innovation and transformation must start with the end in mind and work backwards from there. If organizations embrace scenario thinking to plan their future state, this will help to better define today's business requirements and outcomes to innovate and engineer tomorrow's future — in the cloud.