– By Allan Brearley, Cloud Strategist at digital transformation consultancy ECS

Mention the word shapeshifter and images of cuttlefish, Morph in X-Men and the Greek god Proteus might spring to mind. Throughout history the possession of shapeshifting superpowers has allowed those lucky few to adapt in super-quick time to combat threats. Proteus even lent his name to the adjective protean, meaning versatile.

Business versatility is one thing that has been required in spades during the Covid-19 pandemic. When lockdown one hit last March, many organizations accelerated their digital transformation and cloud adoption plans to support the WFH pivot, with varying degrees of success.

The scale of the challenge was enormous – and highlighted shortcomings in the rigidity of many firms’ business continuity planning (BCP). In particular, the need for a new approach that chimes better with the lean, agile cloud playbook: a BCP with shapeshifting powers.

Covid-19 takeaways

With remote and hybrid working set to remain the norm for many organizations post-pandemic, the race to the cloud will continue. So how should you update your BCP for the cloud era and be better prepared for any eventuality?

One suggestion is to learn from those organizations that got it right during lockdown or laid the tracks before lockdown and progressed efforts when the full effect of the pandemic hit. Flipping the focus to prioritize customer-focused cloud projects – and deprioritizing whatever was job one pre-COVID – seems to have been a smart move judging by the improvement in certain organizations’ Net Promoter Scores (NPS).

For example, we helped one banking customer continue its CX modernization program, enabling them to hit the ground running when the outbreak put its contact center to the test. This included helping them to migrate hundreds of customer service agents to the Amazon Connect cloud contact center platform so they could work from home and handle high call volumes without a hitch. Once this was live, they switched into continuous improvement mode, adding more functionality and ensuring ongoing compliance.

The alternative would have been to prioritize setting up the legacy tech for remote working, which would have taken far longer and resulted in many frustrated customers. Sadly, over the last year many of us have experienced this type of poor customer service due to inflexible technology – and have no doubt considered taking our custom elsewhere after one too many failed attempts to get a resolution.

Shifting mindsets

A move to the cloud requires a wholesale shift in culture, processes and tools, and your cloud era BCP needs to be approached with a fresh mindset too. A cloud-first business operating with an inflexible BCP drawn up at the start of the financial year and then forgotten about is the antithesis of lean and agile. To help with the mindset shift, you might even choose to mothball the term BCP altogether!

In any case, the requirement is very different – plans for fast failover to backup data centers and tape storage for data backups are unnecessary if your cloud platforms are conceived and developed correctly.

The goal ahead is to focus less on rigid architecture definition and more on identifying the right strategies to give employees secure access to everything they need as they move between office, train, home and coffee shop. This means designing your cloud-based systems so they workday in, day out – flexible enough to cope with people working from the office one day and at home the next, without missing a beat.

Cloud architecture ensures resilience

A good parallel here is business email. Once, most employees used Outlook on their desktop as a Windows application and it was difficult to access email outside the office. Fast forward to today and we have all migrated to web applications such as Office365 that allow us to access our inboxes from anywhere.

As well as business continuity for users, organizations need to ensure data continuity by adopting a cloud architecture that has resilience built in from day one.

Public cloud providers such as AWS have this nailed, offering data replication across multiple zones and regions so that if one zone goes down it won’t impact your services.

Reshaping plans

As you reassess your BCP and strategic roadmap in the round, consider the following:

  • Align the leadership team and identify the resources and people needed to deliver it.
  • Resist the urge to scale up multiple siloed pilot programs and focus instead on building a cohesive digital engine to drive the business forward.
  • If you are able to invest now, consider spring-boarding promising pilot programs, developing new solutions that play to the needs of the new business climate, or upskilling teams.
  • If cash is tied up in business-critical operations, use this time to undertake cost optimization exercises and surface insights that boost efficiencies in IT spending.

A holistic approach to business continuity planning

In the new “cloud-first” world, business continuity will no longer mean a rack of separate systems that are there to provide a sense of security for when things go wrong. Instead, it will be an integral part of the bigger cloud play, where the focus is on flexibility, scalability, security, backup and recovery, and business continuity. And all handled in a cost-effective manner that does not impact service quality.

With this more holistic approach, your organization will be more adept at operational shapeshifting and far better prepared to mitigate risk.

And while the ability to fully shapeshift, like Proteus, into a lion or serpent to evade threats is a step too far for even the most successful of businesses, your newly found protean superpowers will go a long way towards giving your organization a competitive edge.