From the experts: How to create a winning AI tech and cloud strategy
Cloud experts Drew Firment, David Linthicum, and Keith Townsend cover top cloud migration and AI integration strategies, plus the need for continuous learning.
Sep 07, 2023 • 5 Minute Read
- Engineering Leadership
- AI & Machine Learning
Even though 94% of leaders use cloud services for their tech initiatives, they aren’t getting the return on investment they were promised.
But does that stem from the cloud services or the way organizations use them?
Pluralsight’s Chief Cloud Strategist, Drew Firment, sat down with David Linthicum, Chief Cloud Strategy Officer at Deloitte Consulting, and Keith Townsend, Principal and Founder of The CTO Advisor, to answer this question and unpack the secrets to cloud success.
Table of contents
- The cost of not having a cloud adoption framework
- How to create a cloud migration strategy
- Define your purpose for cloud computing
- Create cloud success metrics
- Develop cloud skills through continuous learning
- Understand the connection between cloud computing and AI
- Optimize your human and technology infrastructure
- Connecting your cloud migration strategy to customer value
The cost of not having a cloud adoption framework
The pandemic spurred a migration to the cloud. Now 70% of organizations report more than half of their infrastructure exists in the cloud, and 49% are actively moving more of their data to the cloud.
But the shift hasn’t always yielded the expected results. In fact, it’s created entirely new challenges.
“In 2022, a lot of surveys came back where people were pushing back and downright angry in terms of how much they're spending versus what they thought they would be spending in the cloud,” said David. “In many instances, it is 2.5 times the amount of operational dollars they thought they would be spending.”
For many organizations, that 2.5 times is the cost of not having a cloud strategy. If you want to avoid unexpected expenses and gain an innovative advantage in the cloud, you need a cloud migration strategy.
How to create a cloud migration strategy
Knowing you need a cloud migration plan is different from knowing what to include in the plan. Drew, David, and Keith identify the critical components of a cloud computing strategy and the future of cloud with AI’s emergence.
Define your purpose for cloud computing
In the earlier days of cloud computing, organizations followed a similar trajectory. They thought they would move every application to the cloud, lift and shift, modernize, and manage continued change.
However, achieving that third state was more difficult, expensive, and unrealistic than people thought. “The march is no longer, ‘Let’s migrate to the cloud,’” said Keith. “It’s, ‘Let’s use the cloud where it makes sense. Let’s use the private data center where it makes sense.’”
Before your organization migrates new data or applications to the cloud, consider:
What do you gain or lose when moving to the cloud?
What business objective does this migration support?
Are cloud cloud services aligned with business outcomes?
Create cloud success metrics
Defining value metrics will also lead to smarter innovation. You shouldn’t stand in the way of technologists looking to create market differentiators for your business. But you should understand the value of their work, whether that’s additional agility or capabilities, in relation to the cost.
“There has to be a grade in place to make sure we're not continuing to do stupid things with technology that's not returning the value to the business,” David said.
Develop cloud skills through continuous learning
62% of organizations limit cloud training to their technical teams. But with the cloud skills chasm widening, everyone needs cloud knowledge to enable full-scale cloud transformation.
How do you do that? Start by reevaluating your hiring processes. College curricula can’t keep up with the tech industry’s pace of change, so look beyond a candidate’s degree. Relevant certifications or a track record of continuous learning are often just as valuable.
For existing employees, reevaluate your learning and development programs. While formal, structured learning programs have their place, just-in-time training gives people the skills they need at the right time to take the business to the next level.
“Leaders who are promoting [continuous learning] are really at the innovative edge,” said David. “They're the ones who are leveraging cloud computing and AI as a true force multiplier in the business, because they're not necessarily getting into it with a huge structured learning plan. They're giving opportunities for learning to people in the organization. And they're hiring people who understand that.”
Understand the connection between cloud computing and AI
44% of organizations are looking to adopt new cloud services as soon as they're available. And it isn’t just cloud. Leaders want to rapidly adopt AI and tools like ChatGPT for Enterprise to stay on the cutting edge.
But using those tools successfully to create long-term value requires a strategy much like cloud. “AI is hard,” said Keith. “It is a specialized skill set. The demand for talent is much bigger than what the industry can currently provide. You're not gonna become an AI expert after taking a three-month boot camp. That just doesn't work that way.”
Because of this, Keith predicts that cloud services will spring up that allow us to consume AI via API. People won’t need to become prompt engineers to engage with generative AI, get data insights, and create new content.
Even with these tools, people still need cloud skills to leverage the emerging technology and drive outcomes. “It’s really hard to do AI and ML without cloud,” said Drew.
Optimize your human and technology infrastructure
The key to ROI isn’t the cloud solutions you adopt, but how you adopt them. If you have the right governance and infrastructure, you’re more likely to see a greater return on investment.
David emphasized the need to operationalize infrastructure, especially for organizations with complex multicloud environments. “You're going to have to get infrastructure under control, or else everything is just going to go off and be way more expensive, no matter how good you get at application development,” he said. To minimize unexpected costs, create a plan that allows you to add and remove systems in a consistent way and manage everything from a single console.
Human infrastructure is just as important. “This is not a problem that I can solve with more money,” Keith said. “It is a governance and organizational problem.”
If you haven’t invested in your people, Keith advised taking a step back and putting projects on hold before continuing with your planned cloud migration. Rather than investing in more cloud services, build the human infrastructure you need to create a culture of lifelong learning, establish communities of practice, and understand what the business needs to drive value.
Connecting your cloud migration strategy to customer value
More than 70% of organizations struggle to drive customer value with the cloud. “People are consuming cloud services, right? But the whole goal is to actually create value,” explains Drew.
If you’re adopting cloud solutions or AI tools in the hopes of optimizing processes or costs, you need a strategy and skill development to unleash ROI.