Hybrid cloud: 3 ways to maximize value

Future business success depends on hybrid cloud mastery. Consider these tips to help move your organization’s hybrid strategy to the next level
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Businesses everywhere are embracing digital technologies to grab market share and keep up with today’s always-on consumer demands. Many well-known brands turn to the cloud to deliver fast, personalized customer experiences at the heart of their new digital-first strategies.

This urgent need to modernize puts a spotlight on every organization’s digital transformation effort and, critically, their IT leadership’s strategic use of the cloud. According to recent findings from the IBM Transformation Index: State of Cloud, 77 percent of the over 3,000 global business and IT decision-makers surveyed across 12 countries and 15 industries said their organization had adopted a hybrid cloud approach to drive digital transformation progress. On top of this, 71 percent agreed that having a solid hybrid cloud strategy is key to realizing the full potential of a digital transformation.

There has been a significant shift from a single-cloud approach as organizations demand the flexibility to manage data across multiple clouds, on-premises, or at the edge. Yet CIOs are still struggling to leverage the hybrid cloud’s full potential.

Here are three ways IT leaders can ensure they are truly reaping the rewards of an integrated hybrid cloud strategy.

1. Keep critical data safe in the cloud

As organizations move into their hybrid cloud journeys, they face the complexities of making all their environments work together. Less than a quarter of respondents manage their cloud environments holistically. But piecing together different public and private clouds with on-prem environments at speed and treating them disparately can create blind spots, especially regarding security.

[Related read: Hybrid cloud: 5 ways it can improve the customer experience.]

Integration strategies must likewise include partner organizations. Failure to integrate ecosystem partners into cloud environments could be detrimental – opening the door for third- and fourth-party supply chain risks. Cybersecurity remains the top challenge when integrating partners in the cloud.

This fragmented way of working opens businesses to risk – something they cannot afford, with the average data breach expected to cost a company $4.35 million this year, up 13 percent from 2020. Today the question on the minds of IT leaders is how to manage hybrid cloud environments securely and holistically without stifling innovation.

CIOs must first ensure their cloud providers use all the tools at their disposal to protect enterprise and customer data. That includes confidential computing, multifactor authentication, single sign-on, VPNs, and zero trust procedures. Such security investments offer several business advantages. Protecting sensitive partner and customer data can save a company’s reputation and protect it from the rising costs associated with data breaches.

2. Fill the skills gap

IT leaders are facing a hybrid cloud skills shortage. When asked about the barriers to hybrid cloud integration, about 69 percent of respondents said their lack of cloud application management skills is a significant challenge – acting as a barrier to better, more secure cloud implementations.

It's not enough to hire talent; business leaders must also nurture talent with cloud skills.

As CIOs look to overcome security challenges, most companies are looking to hire talent to fill the skills gap. For many, that includes creating specific cloud roles.

[ Also read Edge computing: 5 must-have career skills ]

But it’s not enough to hire talent; business leaders must also nurture talent with cloud skills. They might do this by, for example, introducing a cloud center-of-excellence construct that defines, accelerates, and scales knowledge and best practices across your business. This can help build the type of cloud talent needed to execute a robust hybrid cloud strategy – supporting technical and structural requests from the CIO to different parts of the organization, including security, engineering, and developers.

3. Address the complexities of compliance

For CIOs in highly regulated industries, compliance challenges are especially significant. With regulations and compliance requirements on the rise, most IT leaders say that ensuring compliance in the cloud has been too difficult.

Unfortunately, that keeps their organizations from realizing the total value of the cloud. This holds across industries – particularly within financial services, telco, and government – that must navigate unique challenges that involve complex compliance and regulatory requirements.

[ Read next 5 things CIOs should know about cloud service providers ]

In recent years, industry-specific clouds have emerged to help address compliance needs unique to different industries. An industry cloud platform can have the necessary compliance controls built into its code, allowing organizations to automate compliance across their entire digital estate to help address stringent regulatory compliance standards.

Although many regulators urge organizations like financial institutions to use multiple clouds to mitigate systemic risk, IT organizations must ensure they have a holistic view across their hybrid cloud environment. In addition to helping manage these clouds, such a view can help companies demonstrate their compliance faster, freeing up time and resources to drive the innovation today’s consumer's demand.

In the ever-changing business landscape, now is the time for IT leaders to move beyond hybrid cloud adoption and move towards mastery. Once they overcome skills, security, and compliance obstacles, they can take advantage of a hybrid cloud approach and reap the benefits for their digital-first customers – and their bottom line.

[ Build application environments for reliability, productivity, and change. Download the eBook, Cloud-native meets hybrid cloud: A strategy guide. ]

Jason McGee is an IBM Fellow and Cloud CTO focused on building strong and enduring technology that benefits clients, partners, and IBM.