Using Cloud for Competitive Advantage

Organizations are moving deeper into the cloud to harness its power, but it requires time and patience to achieve strategic goals.

Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer

March 25, 2024

6 Min Read
Composite image of apps and cloud computing concept
Wavebreakmedia Ltd FUS1505 via Alamy Stock

Data, applications, services. They’re all in the cloud for greater efficiencies, but the ROI looks different, depending on an organization’s cloud maturity.  

“[The] low barrier to entry means that new data, users and use cases can be deployed quickly and easily. The downside of this low barrier is that costs can run away as quickly as usage rises. The first few cloud bills are often quite a shock,” says Barzan Mozafari, founder and CEO at Snowflake optimization solution provider Keebo

Digital transformation and the need for greater organizational agility have fueled deeper moves into the cloud in recent years and the investments have paid off.  

For example, supplemental insurance company Aflac, has been on a multiyear cloud journey. The initial goal was to stabilize the company’s enrollment app, which was hosted by a third party. After that, the company adopted a two-part cloud transformation strategy that consisted of moving and hosting its distributed applications on the cloud. The second part addresses the mainframe, which is also currently hosted -- for now. In short, the hosting provider is being replaced by AWS. 

The enrollment app is stable now, which has been followed by distributed platform migrations that are expected to reduce costs by 10% to 15%. Another benefit is the ability to provide services and newer capabilities that are otherwise limited when using legacy technologies hosted on a mainframe. Finally, Aflac can streamline and consolidate many types of tools because similar functionality is available as AWS services. 

Related:8 Secrets for Smoother Sailing During a Cloud Migration

“We tie everything we do back to business value,” says Aflac CIO Shelia Anderson. “[For] most innovations, we’ll do a quick proof of concept. I have a team called ‘The Hatch Lab’ that will leverage new technologies. A lot of it today is focused on AI, machine learning, and large language models to quickly prove some hypotheses or opportunities. If it’s a viable solution, we’ll bring it forward to our normal funding cycles.” 

The biggest challenge is that the cloud’s benefits aren’t necessarily obvious to the business and in the meantime, they’re asking for new capabilities.  

“[When] you move to the cloud the first time, you have to have your organization in a state of readiness,” says Anderson. “And it ties into your training strategy, making sure your teams are prepared.” 

Drive Business Growth 

For term life insurance provider Legal & General America, the company’s cloud migration and transformation journey has included a cloud-native digital platform that’s driving business growth.  

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“[The] key to our success has been a clearly defined cloud strategy that was aligned with business goals and outcomes, and IT goals focused on DevOps, SecOps, governance standards and efficiency gains,” says Raju Seetharaman, SVP and chief technology officer at Legal & General America in an email interview. “This helped drive the right behaviors and expectations with our stakeholder community.” 

Initially, the operating cost rose when migrating from the data center to the public cloud, though a framework and working with the cloud provider’s experts helped lower costs when business as usual was achieved. 

“We are on a multi-year cloud migration and transformation journey, and we plan to continue to leverage the cloud for greater efficiencies, access to services and to become nimbler,” says Seetharaman. 

Launch New Products and Capabilities Faster and Cheaper 

Hybrid cloud management solution provider CloudBolt Software is realizing a “tremendous return on investment” during the early research and development stages by leveraging cloud-native services and server-less architectures. As the R&D efforts mature into generally available capabilities within its SaaS platform, the cloud services allow the company to align customers’ needs with the most efficient cloud service delivery. In turn, its customers get more cost-effective and scalable solutions. 

Related:8 Priorities for Cloud Security in 2024

“The public cloud has granted our teams immediate access to emerging technologies, such as advanced data services and AI models,” says Kyle Campos, chief technology and product officer at CloudBolt in an email interview. “Consequently, we've been able to pioneer new applications of generative AI to elevate end-customer experiences, streamline operations, boost productivity, and leverage insights from diverse consumer feedback channels to inform our product groups.” 

CloudBolt’s cloud journey has imparted four valuable lessons: 

  • For each new workload, choose cloud technologies that balance cost, performance, application requirements and financial efficiency for the job at hand. For CloudBolt, native cloud services are a mechanism for scaling its most important initiatives. 

  • Invest in a solid data foundation as a springboard for advanced capabilities like AI. Unifying data laid the groundwork for its current generative AI initiative. 

  • Foster close collaboration between IT and the business to ensure technology investments address real pain points and opportunities. 

  • Adopt an agile, test-and-learn approach to rolling out cloud innovations. The cloud provides the flexibility to experiment, iterate and scale new solutions at the pace Cloudbolt requires. 

“Our future plans involve continuing to leverage the cloud's agility, scalability and access to cutting-edge technologies to drive innovation, enhance customer experiences and maintain our competitive edge,” says Campos. 

Save Money While Delighting Customers 

ECommerce shipping service Stallion Express has been able to cut its operational costs by 20% while increasing customer satisfaction by 25% by moving to cloud. However, with the gains have come some humbling lessons learned. 

“One of our biggest lessons is the importance of strong cybersecurity. As we’ve seen, with the cloud comes greater vulnerability, requiring a holistic approach to data security. We’ve learned that investing in best-in-class security measures is an absolute must,” says Diana Zheng, head of marketing at Stallion Express in an email interview. “Looking ahead, Stallion Express plans to harness the power of analytics and AI-powered insights to improve shipping operations. We also plan to integrate IoT devices to improve real-time tracking, providing seamless visibility for our clients from start to finish.” 

Importantly, the move to the cloud has transformed the business, enabling Stallion Express to be more agile and competitive. 

Move Faster 

Transportation and logistics company Werner Enterprises adopted a “cloud first, cloud now” approach to continue optimizing its tech stack with the goals of meeting customer needs, maximizing efficiency within the company and enhancing decision-making across the organization. 

“The largest challenge and obstacle we experienced was finding the right, secure cloud solution to store large amounts of data for easy access and use,” says Daragh Mahon, EVP and CIO at Werner Enterprises. “Overcoming data siloes was a major goal for us when we adopted this strategy, so [we needed to ensure] easy access to data across teams to support collaboration, visualization and knowledge-sharing.” 

A deeper cloud approach allowed Werner to move faster and accommodate customers quicker, which has increased customer satisfaction. It has also helped reduce overhead by minimizing the need for physical infrastructure and manual interventions. 

“Embracing cloud technology was also a strategic move internally as it involved a cultural shift within our organization to emphasize innovation and adaptability. We are investing in and developing a skilled workforce with expertise in cloud technologies to help us leverage and experience the full benefits of the cloud,” says Mahon. “We are now confident we are optimized for a technology-first world and workforce.” 

About the Author(s)

Lisa Morgan

Freelance Writer

Lisa Morgan is a freelance writer who covers business and IT strategy and emerging technology for InformationWeek. She has contributed articles, reports, and other types of content to various publications and sites ranging from SD Times to the Economist Intelligent Unit. Frequent areas of coverage include big data, mobility, enterprise software, the cloud, software development, and emerging cultural issues affecting the C-suite.

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