10 ways the pandemic affected cloud investment

IT decision-makers plan to increase cloud security budgets in the next year, says new report from SPR.

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The enterprise quickly caught on: Cloud technology was a game changer. Containment and cloud management companies grew in popularity and tech leaders realized that their organizations had to meet increasing demands, as well as optimize cloud strategy frequently. 

One initiative that emerged as being one of the most important for the enterprise was remote resiliency, which was put to the ultimate test in March, when the organizations that had the ability to go remote, did. The pressure was on for IT departments who had to rally to be sure telecommuters had access to the company online, that their personal devices were safe, and keep vigilant watch, as hackers took advantage of the COVID-19 crisis' imposed mobilization of the industry. As coronavirus cases and the resultant deaths rise, the burden of investing in the cloud grows exponentially. A new report from SPR, "What businesses need for cloud resilience in 2021 and beyond" offers research culled from an investigation into the state of enterprise cloud adoption, in what it calls "this uniquely transformative moment." 

The report cites 10 key findings, which include a reveal of the biggest barrier to effective cloud security: The organization's budget. But in the next 12 months, 41% of IT decision-makers said they plan to increase security budgets.

The engagement with the cloud had been enthusiastic, but COVID-19 sent the innovations into fast forward, which meant that the enterprise was able to assess use quicker, but since it was a digital transformation that evolved from urgent need rather than careful observation and experience, it's now time to make the cloud more efficient. 

SEE: Cheat sheet: The most important cloud advances of the decade (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. IT professionals rate their cloud as mature, but the strategic priorities they employ contradict this 

"Cloud maturity" refers to an organization's advancement level in its cloud tech; 67% of decision-makers and line-of-business employees cited their cloud strategies as mature, but when their strategic priorities and initiatives were examined, it was less mature than they perceived. Line-of-business employees want to adapt IT operations to cloud best practices, such as DevOps (50%), to migrate on-premise IT infrastructure to the cloud (40%) and strengthen cloud security (36%). Decision-makers have planned increasing operational efficiency (54%), protecting consumer data privacy (39%), and improving security (37%).

2. Cloud maturity is an ever-evolving, continuing journey 

The SPR survey queried respondents, "to what extent do you agree with the statement 'our company tracks our cloud maturity'?" 90% of decision-makers said yes, 8% said no. 71% of line-of-business employees said yes, 13% said no.

3. Businesses agree on cloud governance, but it remains a challenge

The initiatives are met with barriers. The top three initiatives to improve could governance in the next 12 months, according to decision-makers are to establish an internal central authority to define standards and best practices for the could (53%), improve employee training or education about cloud standards and best practices (52%), and improving the company's ability to automate and decentralized governance tasks, such as approving access to cloud tools (47%). The top three barriers to effective cloud governance according to line-of-business employees are lack of training or education about cloud standards and best practices (37%); lack of an internal, central authority to define those standards and practices; and the lack of ability to automate and decentralize governance tasks, such as approving access to cloud tools (15%)

4. Decision-makers know the looming threat of shadow IT

Top five drivers of shadow IT for Line-of-business employees: lack of understanding of the security risks of using shadow IT (30%), lack of centralized guidelines on tech use in the workplace (23%), frustration with process for getting authorization (18%), lack of training for use of authorized tools (15%), lack of budget for purchase new tools (11%). Conversely, IT decision-makers' top five initiatives to reduce shadow IT are additional or improved training on authorized tools (55%), additional or improved training on the risks of shadow IT (54%), building/adopting IT infrastructure necessary to support up-to-date tools (41%), establish centralized guidelines on tech usage (34%), simplifying process for the authorization of new tools (33%).

5. The frontline believes cloud deployment is not as malleable as IT decision-makers think

The top three sources of disruption during remote work transition identified by line-of-business employees are IT was overwhelmed with support requests (51%), non-IT employees didn't understand how to use cloud-based tools (48%), the company's cloud infrastructure lacked bandwidth to provide access to all users (35%). 

6. Caution: IT leaders must not rush into making major alterations to their current cloud infrastructure

Even when a time crunch is presented, it ultimately becomes more efficient to make careful assessments. Decision-makers whose companies used public or hybrid cloud deployments said they (63%) were "extremely satisfied" with their cloud provider, but 58% of IT line-of-business employees said they were only "somewhat satisfied" (both assessments refer to during the pandemic). Sixty-nine percent of decision-makers said they're "somewhat likely" to switch cloud providers or add another provider in the next year, and 39% said they were "extremely likely" to do so. Hybrid and public cloud decision-makers broken down by cloud provider(s): Amazon Web Services (61%), Microsoft Azure (62%), Google Cloud (58%).

7. Education and training are the best way to improve cloud security, shadow IT and governance, according to IT leaders

Leaders  said their top priorities to improve cloud security, shadow IT and governance in the next 12 months are educating employees about security risks (43%), additional or improved training on the security risks of shadow IT (54%), and additional or improved training on how to use authorized tools (55%).

8. Shifting gears: Modernizing the cloud, which "is stuck in neutral," said the report, must be prioritized

The report described this state as "organizations will carry inherited tech debt for some time and predicts that to maximize efforts, IT teams will leverage sandbox environments to find improved cloud solutions. The top three cloud-related initiatives canceled or delayed by organizations due to COVID-19, according to decision-makers: Migrating on-premise IT infrastructure to cloud (53%), changing the cloud environment (40%), and adapting IT operations to cloud best practices (36%).

9. Rote work, the frontline contends, needs to be made more efficient

And efficient in a way in which speed doesn't affect accuracy, and the answer the frontline said is automation The three most "painful" results of ineffective cloud deployment identified by IT line-of-business employees are more rote work due to lack of automation (36%), harder-to-fix issues or updating software (33%), and less opportunities to innovate (17%). 

10. Line-of-business workers want to replace outdated cloud infrastructure and processes

The top four most "painful" process barriers to effective cloud deployment identified by IT line-of-business employees are outdated IT infrastructure (42%), slow deployment and testing processes (39%), excessive bureaucracy or red tape (36%), and a lack of communication between IT and other departments (33%).  Despite the confidence of IT professionals in the maturity and resilience of their cloud strategy, there's "still much work to be done for that sentiment to ring true." It doesn't mean, the report concluded, that the wheel needs reinvention, but more of a refinement to existing structure and a shift to DevOps. The rapid, crisis-caused changes caused inherited tech debt, and the enterprise will need to address this and move on. Rather than focus on what's new and trendy, SPR suggested organizations use the cloud to "execute what matters most to your business."

Methodology: To investigate the state of enterprise cloud adoption, SPR interviewed 400 US IT decision-makers to gauge cloud experience and gain understanding regarding what they think is needed to achieve true cloud resiliency. That survey was then followed by another one, this time 400 US IT line-of-business employees were queried for a comparative view. 

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