Let’s face facts. Most financial services firms have some presence in the cloud but remain anchored to legacy systems and processes. Getting your feet wet won’t cut it anymore. To truly capitalise on the cloud’s potential, you need to take the plunge into full cloud transformation.
Cloud transformation brings to the surface the contested debate: Should you pursue wide-scale cloud transformation or incremental cloud improvements? This choice will shape your cloud strategy and fundamentally impact your ability to compete. But determining the best path forward requires clearly understanding their differences and aligning each option with your specific organisational needs. Let’s examine the distinction between cloud transformation and improvement and how financial institutions can choose the most strategic approach.
What exactly sets cloud transformation and cloud improvement apart? Cloud transformation entails wholesale, sweeping changes to systems, processes, and culture to become fully cloud native. It reimagines core architectures and workflows, shifting them entirely to the cloud. Cloud improvement refers to limited, incremental enhancements to existing cloud platforms. It optimises usage, reduces costs, and smooths operations within current architectures.
Consider a global bank migrating its entire customer relationship management system to a cloud-based Salesforce platform. This exemplifies transformation, requiring massive changes to technology, staff skills, and processes. Alternatively, a retail bank optimising its cloud spend by right-sizing its workloads represents an incremental improvement.
While improvement delivers smaller, steady gains through optimisations, transformation unlocks immense potential value through reinvented operations, customer experiences, and competitive positioning. However, it also requires huge investments of resources, time, and organisational change management. As a financial services CIO, which option aligns best with your business objectives and realities? Let’s explore the key differences between the two approaches:
Where should your attention be concentrated? Transformation focuses on completely reimagining and rebuilding core systems and processes as cloud native. This means shifting your customer-facing banking apps, data analytics platforms, and back-end workflows entirely to the cloud. Improvement focuses on maximizing the efficiency of existing cloud infrastructure. This entails consolidation, workload balancing, and architecture adjustments within current systems.
How broadly will changes impact your organization? Transformation requires company-wide cultural and process changes in tandem with cloud adoption. Your staff will need to be reskilled and retrained extensively on new cloud-based systems. Improvement has a much narrower scope centered on technical optimization. While some skills training will be needed, the magnitude of organizational change is much smaller.
What outcomes are you hoping to achieve? The goals of transformation include increased agility, innovation, stronger customer experiences, and competitive differentiation through cloud capabilities. It opens the door to advanced technologies like AI-driven customer insights. The goals of improvement are smoother operations, cost reductions, and incremental efficiency gains within existing technical architectures.
What is your time horizon? Transformation initiatives often span months or even years. Migrating core banking systems to the cloud involves lengthy transition periods. Improvements are ongoing and continuous, enabling faster returns through bite-sized optimizations.
These are clear differentiators between both approaches. Keep them in mind as you look at your organisation’s unique needs and constraints. Will widescale transformation or targeted improvements better align with your business objectives?
Here are key assessment considerations:
What are your budget realities? Honestly evaluate if you have the financial resources to fund a full transformation. Migrating core systems to the cloud requires substantial investments in software, infrastructure, services, and training. Improvement needs are lower since changes are contained. What trade-offs are you willing to make in resourcing each approach?
Do you have an executive endorsement? The transformation will fundamentally reshape your technology landscape and processes. This necessitates extensive senior leadership buy-in and alignment on vision. Improvements have a more limited impact so less executive air cover may be needed. But oversight is still useful for priority setting and accountability.
How urgent are your pain points? Hair-on-fire issues like immediate cost overruns or scalability constraints make a case for prioritising improvement initiatives. But if you have deep foundational problems impeding growth, transformation may be the bolder cure. Assess how deeply urgent versus systemic your challenges are.
What is your risk appetite? In financial services, minimizing disruption is often paramount. Improvements are lower risk since they are confined changes. Transformation brings inherent technology and business risks given wide scope. But the risks of not transforming may become an existential threat. How much risk can you stomach?
How competitive is your ecosystem? Increasingly, the pace of innovation in financial services is being driven by agile startups. If you face competition from disruptive fintech challengers, standing still is not an option. You may need transformation just to stay in the game.
Let’s suppose staying competitive is your top priority. And continued technical debt and legacy systems are obstructing your ability to innovate. In this case, even with higher costs and risks, embracing cloud transformation rather than incremental improvements may be the strategic choice.
I know change is hard. Believe me, moving entrenched organisations to the cloud requires overcoming deep cultural barriers. But we’re reaching an inflection point. Here are key realities to consider:
Customer expectations have changed – Your customers, including lucrative millennials, new generation X, Y, and Z expect “UBERnised” and seamless mobile and web experiences. If you can’t deliver, they’ll defect.
New competition abounds – Agile fintech disruptors are using the cloud’s flexibility to roll out innovative apps and services fast. Can your change cycle keep pace?
Security realities have evolved – On-premises security controls now lag behind sophisticated cloud platforms like AWS and Azure and GCP. The cloud offers superior security capabilities.
Talent wants to build in the cloud – To attract the best developers and data scientists, you need to provide a modern toolkit. Young talent versed in cloud architectures will find on-prem and similar IaaS on cloud dull.
Data’s value keeps growing – Leveraging data for insights requires cloud analytics, machine learning, and AI tools your legacy systems can’t support.
Let’s have an honest conversation about risk trade-offs. Yes, migrating core banking platforms to the cloud may demand sizeable upfront investments. There could be hiccups as your teams climb the learning curve. But there are also huge risks in standing still! Your infrastructure continues to age, technical debt piles up, legacy supporting talent pool continues to shrink and the competitive gap widens.
Balance Innovation and Optimisation
The choice between widescale cloud transformation or incremental improvements may seem binary. But creative hybrid approaches can help balance these competing demands.
Build the foundation – Foster excitement about what’s possible in the cloud. Prioritise cloud training and skills development for your people.
Consider adopting a hybrid cloud model that keeps some legacy systems in place while allowing transformative new cloud-native applications to be built alongside them. This would enable optimizing critical workloads while innovating selectively.
An iterative, phased approach can also smooth the shift to the cloud. Legacy systems can be progressively modernized through multiple waves of transformation based on priority. This reduces disruption while working toward long-term goals.
Strategic pivoting is another option – remain ready to toggle between periods of intense optimization and innovation as business needs evolve. Emphasize speed and flexibility.
Innovation “labs” or incubators can be launched to build net new cloud-native applications isolated from day-to-day operations. These innovations can be tested before disrupting current systems.
Migration-then-modernisation is another hybrid tactic. First migrate an existing system to the cloud as-is to capture quick wins, then rearchitect over time utilizing cloud capabilities.
The optimal balance likely combines targeted optimisation and bolder innovation aligned with your organisational culture. With the right governance strategies, hybrid approaches allow short and long-term business goals to be advanced simultaneously.
Trust me, in 10 years all financial institutions will rely on the cloud for their core operations. The winners will be those that transformed early and completely. Capturing the full value of cloud technologies requires bold strategies not incremental steps.
So, tune out the clouded thinking and cautious whispers. Don’t be afraid to leap past tip-toeing into the cloud. With the right planned approach, and with the right strategy, you can wow your customers, leave competitors in the dust, achieve significant cost efficiencies, and future-proof your business.
The cloud rewards the bold – so be Bold!
I hope you found the post informative, thank you for reading.