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The key to success with cloud platforms is striking the right balance between taking advantage of new cloud capabilities and not being distracted by shiny objects, according to a new report. Also, IT professionals need to refine cloud plans on a regular basis to make sure strategies are not stuck in neutral or falling behind the times. That’s what IT consulting firm SPR found in its recent survey of 800 IT professionals for the new report, “Cloud Report: What Businesses Need for Resilience in 2021 and Beyond.”

SEE: Managing the multicloud (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

Kevin McMahon, executive director of cloud enablement at SPR, said that keeping up with the dynamic nature of cloud platforms is one of the toughest challenges for clients.

“These platforms now are constantly morphing whether you want them to or not,” he said. “You have to know what you can do with this technology now as well as what you need to manage it going forward.”

SEE: Top cloud providers in 2020: AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, hybrid, SaaS players (TechRepublic)

The 10 key finding of the report are:

  1. IT professionals rate their cloud as mature but their strategic priorities say otherwise
  2. Cloud maturity is an ongoing journey
  3. Cloud governance is still a challenge
  4. Shadow IT is an ongoing threat
  5. Cloud deployments are not as flexible as executives think
  6. It’s best to pause before making major changes to cloud infrastructure
  7. IT leaders see training as a cure for several problems
  8. Cloud modernization is stuck in neutral
  9. Frontline workers want more automation of rote tasks
  10. Outdated infrastructure is sabotaging effective cloud deployments

In August, SPR surveyed 400 IT leaders at the director level or above and 400 line-of-business employees at the senior manager level or below. All participants worked at companies that use a private, public, or hybrid cloud deployment.

McMahon said IT teams need to come up with a consistent process for evaluating new cloud capabilities to determine whether the new function can provide a competitive advantage, save money, or improve efficiency.

“There are missed opportunities to make substantial improvements if you set it and forget it,” he said.

Finding the right automation strategy

McMahon said automation represents another broad implementation challenge for IT teams because people often automate the wrong tasks or unimportant ones.

“You have to assess the use case and automate to defend against things going wrong or for increased efficiency,” he said.

IT teams also need to justify the ROI of time and energy of implementing and maintaining automation.

“Automation efforts fail because people realize that the work going into it isn’t worth the return or it’s too challenging to automate big tasks,” he said.

Survey respondents said that some of the most painful results of ineffective cloud deployments are more rote work due to lack of automation and more difficulty in updating software.

How to get workers and executives on the same page

Several findings in the report showed a disconnect between the two survey groups—decision makers and line-of business IT employees. As with other surveys, the leadership team generally had a sunnier view of operations than the people doing the day-to-day work.

In the SPR survey, 47% of decision makers strongly agreed the pandemic accelerated their company’s evolution to full cloud maturity but only 29% of IT team members felt the same. As the report stated, this difference indicates a “disconnect between decision makers’ view of cloud maturity from the top versus frontline employee’s experience on the ground.”

IT team members listed outdated IT infrastructure, slow deployment and testing processes, and excessive bureaucracy as weakness that hinder cloud computing. DevOps practices and improved governance are two things that could improve those limitations.

The two groups also disagree on governance best practices. Fifty-three percent of decision makers said that establishing a central authority to define best practices was the best approach while only 18% of line-of-business employees thought that was a barrier to good governance.

McMahon also said that business leaders and IT team members need to have a shared understanding of goals from a business outcome process.

“That becomes the north star to make decisions as we go through the process of what to build and how to build it,” he said.

George Burns III said that cloud modernization is a conversation about finance and return on investment between IT leadership and business leaders.

“More non-IT leaders see the importance of digital business models after the initial impact of the pandemic, giving IT leaders an opportunity to leverage cost analysis to improve the cloud,” he said in comments about the report.

McMahon said that IT and business leaders should work together to make sure IT investments pay off sooner rather than later.