ECDC 2021: Cloud Computing in the Middle East Fuelling Transformation 


Piyush Chowhan, Group Chief Information Officer, Lulu Group, UAE in conversation with Abhinav Mishra, Director – Strategy, Vibe Projects, spoke about digital transformation and the challenges. And what must organisations do before migrating to the cloud? Is cloud migration the last mile to an organisations’ digital transformation? What strategies can be adopted to reduce costs and improve efficiency? Here’s an excerpt.

Abhinav Mishra: Question on everyone’s mind. Legacy organisations are facing an issue with adopting a digital-first strategy. What must be kept in mind for a cloud-first strategy?

Piyush Chowhan: The pandemic has pushed digital transformation across organisations globally. Organisations were forced to take a digital-first approach to combat the lull in business.  The agenda of thought leaders is clear; we can’t survive the future if a digital-first or digital acceleration isn’t done correctly. The transformation is akin to driving. You need to know your vehicle, as well as the road you’re taking. Losing control is not the best idea. Neither can you plan everything in an ad hoc manner. The core of digital transformation is a belief that needs to be embedded in proper practice. Few organisations believe that uploading everything in the cloud is the be-all and end-all in an organisation’s journey towards complete digitisation.  

In the present scenario, cloud companies are having a gala time. Uploading something on the cloud will not help. Cloud isn’t just a hosting environment. Efforts must be taken to make applications scalable on the cloud. It has more capabilities to transform your business. Another way of looking at it is transferring applications from one server to another.

Organisations must find out what is their reason when uploading something to the cloud.

Abhinav Mishra: How can CIOs prevent mistakes with regards to manpower and DevOps?

Piyush Chowhan: One of the prerequisites is a skilled workforce when it comes to working in a cloud-based environment. 

The Workforce needs to be upskilled in handling the cloud. A proper cloud environment is mandatory. A true cloud-native environment is required for businesses to thrive if they are to move their operations to the cloud. Three aspects of transformation must be taken care of: Cloud Transformation, Data Transformation, and Application Transformation.

If you don’t have a complete transformation idea or route map in your organisation, the migration or transformation to the cloud will not happen in the way you want. Legacy organisations bring a lot of skill and experience. This balance between cloud, data and application transformation will help increase the adoption of cloud-based strategies.

Abhinav Mishra: How can businesses balance compliance while adopting cloud?

Piyush Chowhan: Data security is an ingrained feature of the cloud. One needs to know the extent of the digital footprint of the organisation before undertaking such a transformation. Measuring digital footprint and analysing the data will help understand how one can comply with laws. We cannot measure the reach of data through digital platforms.

Having said that, when data is taken on a third-party platform, one can ensure security is in place. A guard rail for your data is important. When an application is developed, it is necessary to have the requisite security in place and then, the application can be developed. Security is not a thought. It is a way of life. A security-first approach is extremely important for those mulling moving their processes on the cloud. 

The concept of security has to be developed from the initial stages itself. It cannot come as an afterthought. The concept of security has to be ingrained and developed in your workforce from the start. Once this is ensured, organisations can proceed to move their applications to the cloud. 

Abhinav Mishra: What steps can organisations take to control expenditure during cloud migration?

Piyush Chowhan: It is important to clearly understand how much data you want to out in the cloud. Cloud as a platform can be very expensive.  Cloud can help develop your infrastructure and better delivery. It is imperative to know your application inside out before putting it in the cloud.  People make the mistake of uploading legacy applications in the cloud. Cloud has the capabilities to transform businesses. But one must evaluate the benefits of migrating. Does it apply to their business? 

Putting a legacy application in the cloud will cost the organisation a premium. It is not economical or beneficial at all. Uploading the right application will help in controlling costs.

One must also measure the scale of their applications. You must know how much capacity you will occupy in the cloud. If not calculated, the expenses can shoot up immensely. For example, training applications, when put in the cloud, can wreak havoc on company finances. The necessary skill set among personnel has to be there. 

Abhinav Mishra: Will multi-cloud strategies control vendor locking? Is Vendor-locking a disadvantage? What can organisations do to avoid it? 

Piyush Chowhan: Hybrid cloud can be an answer to that, but don’t diversify too much. Keep it limited. Having said that, businesses must not concentrate too much on in-premise data storage either. Doing that will have a detrimental effect. Diversification is the right way ahead. A healthy balance is essential. 

Abhinav Mishra: When it comes to a company’s journey towards complete digitisation, what are some of the key requirements?

Piyush Chowhan: Cloud companies take a healthy chunk of the company’s budget during migration. The hype that putting any application in the cloud will help you complete your digital journey is incorrect. Understanding your application and technology is important. Uploading an application in the cloud will have no benefits and, in some cases, can be detrimental to the organisation and its finances. 

Abhinav Mishra: What is the Lulu group’s focus when it comes to adopting technology?

Piyush Chowhan: I’m trying to bring a culture where the focus is on providing the best customer experience (CX). A conscious shift in that direction will not only keep employees happy. It will also make our organisation more customer-centric and transform the way we do business and make everyone happy. 

Abhinav Mishra: What is the one quote or thought you live by?

Piyush Chowhan: Don’t worry about outcomes. Keep doing good work, and good results will follow. This is the core principle I have been working on. It allows one to take your mind off the result. That is agile working. Today’s concept, today’s date: We cannot be afraid to innovate. We must continue to do good work.

The conference was supported by Platinum Partner Nutanix. Strategic Partner  Lenovo, Intel, and Enterprise Technology Partner Confluent, Media Partners Enterprise Talk and IT Security Wire. Watch the session video here