Pointers for cloud beginners, from PwC

Cloud is coming, but how do you ready yourself? Exploring cloud strategy with Vaughan Mason.

At Finance Indaba 2018, technologist and solutions architect at PwC South Africa Vaughan Mason led his audience through an introduction to the power and potential of cloud technologies – from near future uses, to immense possibilities.

Speaking on 3 October at the Sandton Convention Centre, Vaughan shared research that shows that by 2021, cloud spending in South Africa will double to $500 million, and by 2025, more than 85 percent of companies in SA will have a cloud-first strategy. Without cloud, he says, companies face an increased risk of failure. 

To prepare your firms and manage this inevitable transition, Vaughan offers several pointers for ‘cloud beginners’:
•    To Vaughan’s mind, cloud also enables a move away from a cost focus to one that is open to a revenue focus. Of course, converting to cloud is not without costs, especially for organisations with significant computing demand. In their experience, Vaughan says, you can expect a double-cost scenario during the first on-boarding and dual (cloud and on-site) stage. Once you move the majority of the workload into cloud, however, you hit the cost-tipping point, and will ultimately see savings through off-site management, off-site security, electricity costs, and much more. 


•    Despite its power, becoming a “cloud first” organisation needn’t mean “cloud only”. Here Vaughan recommends being strategic in what you push into the cloud. As a starting point he recommends you move standard process and programmes, such as CRM or HR-related tools. 

•    Ultimately, your cloud strategy should be informed by clearly defined business outcomes, as should your choice of cloud provider. On the latter, he strongly recommends first doing a total cost scenario, as the packages from providers vary greatly and are not easily compared because they tend to go into extreme granularity and complexity. You will need to have a solid sense of your requirements and how you wish to use cloud and then “run the numbers”

•    Another factor in the plan needs to be an exit strategy. As you are reliant on outside providers, you will need to consider what you do if that provider disappears or no longer meets requirements. 

•    Naturally, cloud security is a big concern for many people and companies. Cloud providers, he says, are geared for security, and usually as up-to-date and security conscious as any client-company could ever hope to be. So that need not be the main concern. Rather he warns that the parts of the cloud that fall under client control are the ones that can easily be compromised without proper controls and policies in place. This onus rests with the clients – to establish and enforce robust policies with their own users. 

•    Lastly, Vaughan recommends establishing your success criteria upfront in order to track against this – something which will involve collaboration with management, finance and IT. Will you be measuring costs saved, agility achieved, or innovation unlocked? 

With all of these in mind, Vaughan believes that companies will see a paradigm shift in both finance and IT with a move to the cloud, especially with the “ever evolving financial cloud landscape”. With this, be prepared for the creation of new skills and roles, as well as reporting structures, in order to successfully manage your cloud investment and a cloud-based financial system.