Cloud computing and business agility: cloud infrastructure elasticity revisited

Craig Le Clair – VP Principal Analyst at Forrester Research
Craig Le Clair – VP Principal Analyst at Forrester Research

An increasing need for higher business agility, as it ranks higher on the corporate agenda in this age of digital transformation, remains one of the key drivers in the growing interest regarding cloud services. As each year, the cloud tops the ‘technology prediction lists’ in 2014 again.

However, each year the tone continues to change as well, with less ‘cloud vapor’ and more focus on ‘business’, driving the de facto dominance of a hybrid cloud deployment model in most organizations. According to Forrester’s Craig LeClair, infrastructure elasticity should be seen as an enabler for other dimensions that make the business more agile and higher performing.

Whether you take a look at the evolutions in business domains such as information management, enterprise collaboration and work or at the fast digitalization across specific verticals, cloud computing is ranked as a crucial factor. The end goal of those evolutions, in many cases, is one of higher agility, at the same time of course one of the original drivers of the cloud to start with. This is not a coincidence in an increasingly real-time economy where business agility drives better business performance.

Beyond the cloud: from business to real-time business

While agility and the ability to respond faster (and soon to pro-spond) to changing business, customer and worker demands is obviously not just a technology question, technology is an enabler of it. Business is driving IT with challenging consequences. The same goes for business agility and cloud computing.

More than two years ago the “beyond the cloud” approach of our partner BT Global Services pushed to end the cloud jargon, spin and hype to look at measurable business benefits. In retail, for instance, a flexible approach to in-store point-of-sale technology helped the retail sector by meeting seasonal demands. In the pharmaceutical sector, an approach “beyond the cloud” speeded up life sciences research and shortened time-to-market. In each of the examples the key was the business benefit. And – again – we know business is driving IT evolutions and is putting pressure on the CIO’s role.

In recent years, these business benefits increasingly are revolving around speed and agility with the ongoing digitalization creating a new real-time IT paradigm to enable digital innovation and transformation with business processes and customers/stakeholders taking center stage. That increasing attention for overall business agility is a logical evolution and will continue to drive cloud computing. It’s something we have seen gradually coming for years, driven by that famous ongoing, disruptive and omnipresent digitalization.

The need for flexibility and agility in the actual business processes today de facto is among the key drivers of the shift towards hybrid cloud models in multi-cloud environments. According to research, conducted by Experton Group in 2013, agility and flexibility turned out to be clearly business-enabling aspects of cloud services that appeal more and more to business managers.

Among them:

  • Business agility as such.
  • Employee empowerment in dealing with real-time economy trends.
  • Flexibility across business ecosystems.
  • Big data.

The picture is clear.

Infrastructure elasticity as an enabler of “business elasticity”

At the beginning of this new year, Forrester analyst Craig Le Clair, an expert in business process optimization, wrote a blog post with a headline that had to attract the attention: “Sorry – but cloud really doesn’t matter“.

In it, Craig talks about business agility and the cloud, mainly referring to ‘infrastructure elasticity’ as the agility dimension for all cloud-related things with a focus on the infrastructure aspect as such and disconnected from the process and business value dimension (a while back Craig outlined 10 measurable dimensions of business agility). With his eye-catching headline he also wants to make clear how it’s about the enablement of, among others, business agility or let me call it “business elasticity”.

“The infrastructure elasticity should be seen as an enabler for other dimensions that make the business more agile and higher performing”, Craig writes and he gives the example of how business intelligence, for instance, can be accelerated via cloud options directly to the business.

As one commenter says, ‘the value of the cloud is in the way that smart organizations leverage it‘. Or as another commenter puts it: ‘if you are making things that nobody wants, it doesn’t matter how elastic is your technical infrastructure and operational business processes‘. That’s what the strategic hybrid cloud roadmap is all about in the end: there is no one-size fits all infrastructure solution, it’s all about the business priorities, the first stage of that roadmap.

Infrastructure elasticity as such can lead to better enterprise performance as well. While Craig looks at the bigger picture, there are examples. But his call to look at infrastructure elasticity as an enabler for other dimensions making the business more agile is important. As written before, there is no perfect cloud model. I quote from the hybrid cloud roadmap we mentioned earlier: “not all businesses are the same…there is no single cloud deployment model that is ideal for all business needs…different needs require different cloud deployment models”.

The question is, and I quote again from the hybrid cloud roadmap, “How do companies ensure that they adopt a strategic approach to cloud deployment and thus achieve maximum benefit from the latest cloud developments that are mainly driven by the consequences and needs of the real-time economy and at the same time enable it?”.

Those real-time economy needs are more and more about business agility indeed.