First in the cloud

June 7, 2021

It is difficult to imagine how organisations would have continued to function during the coronavirus pandemic were it not for cloud-based applications like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Gmail. Cloud computing has enabled a degree of business continuity that would simply not have been possible five years ago. For Accenture UK’s Cloud Factory lead David Darlington, this is only the beginning. Here, he tells Richard Dawson how migrating to the cloud helps companies accelerate growth and embrace the increasingly digital future.

Cloud computing is one of those technologies that we often think is more complicated than it really is.

Part of that is because innovative digital technologies, by definition, enable us to step into the unknown and do things we couldn’t do before.

Cloud is perhaps the best example of this, and the extent to which we have used cloud to overcome the operational challenges of doing business during a worldwide pandemic explains why.

But before we get into that, just what exactly is cloud computing and why is it important for businesses to be thinking about cloud migration?

David Darlington, Cloud Factory lead at Accenture UK, says: “Cloud computing is a model that enables everything from servers, networks, storage, development tools and applications to be made available instantly and at scale.”

Before cloud, all businesses had to invest in their own infrastructure to store their data and run their applications.

This would entail building a bespoke data centre on company premises to run servers, systems and software (known in IT parlance as on-premise), and then invest heavily in the ongoing maintenance of that data centre.

For obvious reasons, this meant that every time a business wanted to mobilise a new project or launch a new product or service, they would first have to invest in the development of their data centre, which had big cost and time implications attached to it.

They would also have to make sure that their infrastructure could cope with any peaks in demand, creating the potential for expensive hardware to be sat idle for large periods of time.

Cloud has solved these headaches for businesses by allowing them to ditch the on-premise model and move to a cloud solution where all of their data is stored in a remote data centre somewhere away from their office and made readily available to both their
staff and customers.

It really is as simple as that. Cloud is essentially the technology that enables digital transformation, allowing companies to outsource the building, running and development of their computer system resources.

“Today, cloud technology means that companies can scale and adapt at speed, accelerate innovation, drive business agility, streamline operations, and also reduce costs,” says David.

Accenture works with clients on their business and technology transformation journeys, with cloud being the enabler for innovation, growth and collaboration.

It is the foundation on which to build new experiences, using data to change the face of how companies work.

A good way to think about the various cloud services available is to use the Pizza as a Service analogy.

David explains: “The traditional on-premises model is like making the pizza at home. You provide everything, the dining table, the drinks, the oven and the ingredients.

“Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the next level up. The cloud provider gives you the ingredients, but you still supply the oven, drinks and dining table.

“Next is Platform as a Service (PaaS), where everything but the dining table and drinks are provided – you could liken this to having a pizza delivered.

“Then there is Software as a Service (SaaS) where everything is provided by the cloud – equivalent to eating a pizza at a restaurant.”

Accenture adopts a ‘cloud first’ approach to accelerate change across the human, technology and business dimensions of the organisations it works with, breaking down complex cloud journeys into three simple steps – migrate, accelerate, innovate.

“Our approach to cloud services is now laser focused on helping our clients fast-track their innovation journey,” adds David.

This has been packaged up into the firm’s new offer called Accenture Cloud First, which brings together a full stack of integrated cloud capabilities like data, edge, integrated infrastructure and applications, deep ecosystem partnerships and pre-configured industry solutions to shape, move, build and operate business in the cloud.

You could think of this service as eating a pizza at your favourite restaurant.

Such is the importance of cloud for enabling businesses to be agile and move at pace, it is estimated that cloud spending will reach $332.3 billion by the end of 20211.

As previously mentioned, cloud allows us to do things that we couldn’t do before, and this was brought
into sharp focus when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year.

David says: “As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, businesses started accelerating their transformations to cloud to help navigate the human and business impact of the pandemic.”

Just think about things like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, WeTransfer, OneDrive, Dropbox, Gmail, Outlook, Slack and Basecamp – none of these applications would exist were it not for the cloud.

And without them, pretty much every white-collar worker in the world would have been unable to do their job for the last 14 months.

David continues: “What the pandemic has done is turned cloud from an aspiration into an urgent mandate.

“It created a new inflection point that required every company to accelerate their move to the cloud.

“Transformations that would have normally taken years, in some cases, happened almost overnight.

“There’s no doubt that cloud has been the enabler for business continuity and working from home.”

Accenture has helped scores of businesses with their transformations during this challenging time, but two success stories stick out in particular.

Working with NHS Digital, Avanade and Microsoft to equip staff with communication and collaboration capabilities, Accenture helped to connect 1.2 million NHS workers during the pandemic.

Within seven days, the Accenture, Avanade, Microsoft and NHS Digital teams built and tested the Microsoft Teams integration and together rolled it out to all 1.2 million NHSmail2 users across 16,000 NHS organisations.

“Another great example is West Midlands Police3,” says David.

“Accenture created a cloud-first solution for them, together with AWS, which is improving productivity equal to having 150 more police officers on the street.”

The sense of urgency, which the pandemic has generated, is driving cloud adoption on a previously unprecedented scale.

Around 20 per cent4 of business operations are in the cloud today, but this is expected to rise to 80 per cent in the next three years.

Bringing together more than 70,000 cloud professionals across its global network, Accenture, which has a growing team in Newcastle’s Cobalt Business Park, is fast becoming the partner of choice for taking the journey through the cloud.

To further power this agenda, the company is investing $3 billion into new ventures and acquisitions, skills and capabilities, assets, accelerators and industry solutions to ensure that any emerging cloud services are available to its clients.

Stuart Glen, Cloud First lead for Accenture’s UK Advanced Technology Centre, says: “Our investment in Accenture Cloud First recognises not just the importance that we, Accenture, see in the cloud but also the absolute priority our clients are placing on their cloud ambitions.”

Lucy Henderson, apprentice at Accenture’s Advanced Technology Centre in Newcastle, says:

“I joined Accenture on a Degree Apprenticeship Programme in August last year.

“It’s been daunting starting my career in a virtual world, but the collaboration tools available now have made it much easier.

“I was attracted by the breadth of opportunities at Accenture— from the formal training to the lunch & learn sessions, as well as the variety of roles and sectors we get the chance to work in.

“Completing the AWS and Azure certifications has been a highlight so far, as has being able to apply what I’ve learnt from these to real client projects.”

One of the key things to understand about what a ‘cloud first’ business really looks like is that it doesn’t start and end with the migration.

“Some people say journey to the cloud, but I think it should be journey through the cloud,” adds David.

This is because cloud gives businesses the agility and the capacity to reimagine their products and services, the way they interact with their customers and partners, and how their employees work with each other by leveraging the power of cloud.

Cloud opens the door to other emerging digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and genomics, allowing companies to discover new revenue streams and differentiate their brands.

And these are just the technologies we know about right now. Owing to the ever-evolving nature of cloud computing, new functions and capabilities are being developed all the time, which is why Accenture is also investing heavily in improving education around the subject.

The company’s recent Tech Talent Tracker5 showed that cloud computing was the most in demand technology skill in the UK, with nearly 35,000 roles advertised on LinkedIn last year.

“Over 75 per cent of IT decision makers are also dealing with skills gaps,” adds David.

“The digital skills gap is one of those topics that crops up time and again, and the pandemic seems to have accelerated the existing trend for the future of the whole workforce: a clear shift in the types of skills needed to thrive in an increasingly digital economy.”

He continues: “The key is to democratize learning and access to cloud and data—and embracing new culture, mindsets, behaviours and workplaces to adopt new ways of working.”

It is this task that Accenture’s Advanced Technology Centre in Newcastle is now engaged with.

As well as upskilling its own workforce with its flagship ‘Technology Quotient (TQ)’ learning programme and offering external certifications with hyperscalers such as Microsoft, AWS and Google, the centre is also advancing its degree apprenticeship programme to help close the skills gap and build the workforce of the future.

All in all, cloud computing is something all businesses and indeed the employees who work for them should be thinking about.

The evidence shows that many already are, but with demand expected to grow exponentially over the next three years, cloud service providers will have to rise to the challenge.

Accenture is investing in its skills and services now to enable clients to think ‘cloud first’.

Key takeaways from Accenture’s latest UK Tech Talent Tracker:

• Cloud computing was the most in-demand technology skill in the UK in 2020, with 35,000 job postings on LinkedIn

• Job postings for AI skills were up 73 per cent to approximately 6800

• Demand for robotics skills jumped dramatically across Northern England and was up 450 per cent in Newcastle

• 41 per cent of all technology- related job postings were in London

• London has 420,000 technology professionals, with Manchester a distant second place on 27,000

• Demand for blockchain and computing skills jumped by 50 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively

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