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COVID-19 and the cloud: How to maintain systems resilience

Kishore Durg explains how enterprises can leverage systems resilience to ensure that they don't experience any cloud disruptions during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put enterprise systems resilience in the spotlight. Around the world, CIOs and IT managers have found themselves on the front line of a battle to keep their organizations up and running in circumstances that few will have planned for, wreaking havoc on their business continuity planning.

This has been a challenging task for many enterprises. In the Future Systems research Accenture conducted before the crisis, only 10% of companies had really cracked systems resilience and put in place the right technologies to ensure fast and effective resilience.

Most companies, therefore, experienced a sharp learning curve as they scrambled to plug gaps in their resilience measures. However, for CIOs and IT leaders, the experience offers a compelling picture of what the future holds -- the need to outmaneuver uncertainty. COVID-19 has pressed the reset button on old ways of building systems resilience, and IT teams that make the right adjustments now will be able to secure significant advantages for their businesses.

Mitigate shocks with the cloud

As companies look to outmaneuver the uncertainty heightened by the pandemic, the enterprise focus has shifted to sustaining operations under severe disruption, flexing to address highly volatile customer demand and managing vastly increased needs for remote network access.

For many companies, COVID-19 not only introduced new disruptions to their enterprise systems, it also exposed preexisting weaknesses in those systems. According to research we conducted before the pandemic, only a small minority of companies -- the top 10% -- had mastered systems resilience. It's imperative that the companies that went into the crisis with significant gaps embrace the promise of cloud now. If they do, they can mitigate business risk, emerge stronger and be prepared to thrive amidst uncertainty in the future. In addition to helping companies address immediate challenges, the technology has promise as a foundational element of enterprise systems that are much more flexible and better able to weather sudden shocks.

Take demand volatility, which has been one of the more challenging economic consequences of COVID-19 containment measures. With physical stores shuttered and people locked-in at home, businesses in sectors such as travel and hospitality have seen demand plummet. Conversely, online services including ecommerce, food delivery and media streaming have seen an unprecedented surge in demand. Retailers like Carrefour, for instance, have seen 300% increases in demand for digital commerce, while Netflix has seen 16 million new subscribers sign up in the first three months of the year.

The cloud allows enterprises to meet the challenge of volatile demand patterns in several ways. First, using the cloud, IT managers can effortlessly reconfigure traffic to maximize capacity for critical applications when surges in volume and compute capacity disrupt the ability to serve customers and suppliers.

Another option is for organizations to move low-priority applications to the cloud to free valuable system and human resources. This is an approach that many ecommerce retailers will use when managing demand surges during seasonal shopping peaks. For instance, one large retailer we work with was able to handle a massive surge in Black Friday sales by offloading traffic from the core e-commerce site to a cloud-based coupon application. The approach stopped the site from failing and improved the overall customer experience.

For businesses starting out on this approach, the first step is to put in place the right strategic planning tools so they can view their existing cloud consumption patterns and optimize utilization. In addition, companies can leverage automation to eliminate manual activities for less-critical computer, storage and network configurations.

Rapid innovation in the cloud

The cloud can also help by accelerating innovation. By using cloud-native sandbox environments, enterprises can develop minimum viable products in as little as two or three days. The approach has been used during the crisis by a wide variety of organizations to address an even broader array of challenges.

One hospital in Spain, for example, worked with its technology partner to rapidly develop a new virtual assistant to help manage the exponential increase in incoming calls during the crisis. Meanwhile, the Singapore government was able to quickly launch a mobile app called TraceTogether to support contact tracing efforts in the nation-state -- this initiative would not be possible without the cloud.

Finally, the cloud enables IT managers to better align costs to demand, thanks to its "pay-as-you-go" model. Companies can also proactively lower operating expenses by selling excess capacity on the secondary market. Once again, the starting point is having a complete view of the cloud estate. One client in the energy space has used our services to gain an integrated view of its cloud usage across multiple corporate entities and technology providers. The company thereby quickly discovered over 91,000 cloud objects including 9,000 virtual machines and close to $2.2 million in cloud spend per month. Now, with the immediate visibility of their environment, they can start optimizing costs across their cloud estate.

Transforming systems resilience

Cloud-based systemic optimization and acceleration is one of six pillars we have identified as central to effective business resilience, along with the elastic digital workplace,  hyper automation, architecture performance and engineering, service continuity and cybersecurity. By leveraging these capabilities, leading IT practitioners are turning the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity for advantage. This will enable their businesses to emerge stronger, more adaptable and exponentially faster.

About the author

Kishore Durg is senior managing director of Accenture Cloud for Accenture Technology. Durg leads Accenture's cloud business globally and drives investments, ventures and acquisitions. Before joining Accenture, Durg spent 10 years in the U.S. working on system integration and consulting assignments around the world. He is currently based in Bangalore, India.

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