Time for Africa to embrace the cloud

Five key areas where AI and Automation could most impact your business
Niral Patel, MD of Oracle South Africa.
Time for Africa to embrace the cloud.
Niral Patel, MD of Oracle South Africa.

Businesses are under pressure to balance managing costs while remaining innovative with their value propositions. This is taking its toll on executives, with global CEO turnover reaching a record rate of almost 17% in 2015 and average tenure of a company’s leader well below 10 years.

In Africa, the situation is no different. Adding to the complexity of managing organisational growth on the continent is overcoming infrastructure challenges and other accessibility concerns as the need arises to embrace digital transformation initiatives.

In this high-stakes environment, the cloud can enable CIOs to harness the best transformational tools and leverage data, in an extremely cost-effective manner. So why are more businesses in Africa not embracing the cloud? Despite its benefits, many companies remain unsure how best to migrate or why it is important to do so sooner rather than later.

Getting the timing right
There are two common scenarios around the cloud migration: when a company is rolling out new capabilities; or when it needs to upgrade existing IT infrastructure due to demand for more capacity or because aging systems need replacing.

Fortunately, many African organisations have not been as reliant on legacy systems as their counterparts in more developed markets. This has seen businesses on the continent generally more capable of adapting quicker to the requirements of the digital world using more flexible systems than many in other areas of the world.

Despite this, traditional IT leaders are used to resolving infrastructure issues by using spares or gradually buying hardware capacity. Costs tend to be marginal as this has been the accustomed way of working. It also means that this type of gradual growth presents an excellent opportunity for cloud adoption which can be overlooked.

However, this is changing.

According to research by the IDC, 90% of CIOs in South Africa are planning or currently executing digital transformation while 80% of those not engaged in it yet cite budget constraints as the cause. Yet, tools have been developed that can assist organisations in translating existing on-premise systems to cloud-enabled ones. Almost at the push of a button, the time and investment previously required to rewrite legacy applications and map the complex web of compute, storage, and networking is removed. This not only has a significant time benefit but a financial one as well eliminating a significant obstacle in making the migration to the cloud.

The bystander phenomenon
Another challenge is that human behaviour tends towards the bystander phenomenon; wait for the change, see someone react, and only then (maybe) take action. This response is frequently seen when it comes to ongoing changes in the data centre. As a result, IT leaders are often in no rush to move to the cloud; even as team members within and outside the organisation use their own credit cards to enjoy the flexibility and the speed of provisioning capacity from cloud.

The challenge is that if IT breaks, it can become costlier and more difficult to support. Perhaps more significantly, waiting around also gives competitors a head start.

What should you move?
In Africa, it is easy to be cynical about new technology especially as it often does not take circumstances on the continent into consideration. However, the cloud transcends that and focuses on making data accessible to all stakeholders irrespective of their physical location or device used.

And with new migration tools and cloud solutions offering executives the ability to move an application spread across multi-tier virtualised and physical infrastructure ‘as-is’ to the public cloud, the business can accelerate its progress to this environment and mitigate the long migration efforts that were traditionally needed.

This means that there is even less reason to be a bystander in the race to adopt enterprise cloud. Of course, there will still be the need to take a measured approach to a migration. But by starting to experiment by pushing ‘low risk environments’ into the cloud, executives can experience an immediate return on investment while starting the natural, gradual evolution in to a modern IT organisation.

By Niral Patel, MD of Oracle South Africa