In recent months, tech has become enamored with the latest in a long line of cloud buzzwords, in this case a hyphenate — multi-cloud. Multi-cloud is a good strategy — for all the reasons everyone is already talking about — flexibility, avoiding lock-in, using best of breed solutions, and so on. In fact, we’ve been working with customers and creating ‘how to’ content on multi-cloud for more than a year now. The concept makes a lot of sense, particularly for companies born in the software age. Gartner recently predicted the impending dominance of multi-cloud, writing,

“By 2020, 75% of organizations will have deployed a multicloud or hybrid cloud model for their IT needs.”

Technology is just the tip of the iceberg

Statistics like Gartner’s makes the rise of multi-cloud sound like a foregone conclusion. But, like so many other harsh realities in our industry, popular commentary has a habit of glossing over the very real organizational and operational challenges that non-cloud-native organizations face in trying to leverage cloud.

The truth is, traditional IT teams are working with outdated technology. Longstanding organizations are deeply dependent on legacy applications to run their businesses. These apps are mission-critical, have often been untouched for decades, and have grown over time with wrappers around old stacks due to industry consolidation. But old technology is just the tip of the iceberg.

People challenges abound

As a result of relying on outdated technology, many enterprise businesses are facing trouble both retaining and recruiting talent, because  the original staff is either no longer available or the staff would like to focus on newer (more exciting) tools and infrastructure. What’s more, large enterprises are facing skills challenges on both sides of cloud adoption. A market survey we conducted with 451 Research earlier this year found the majority of IT leaders face significant gaps in both the skills to manage existing systems and those to modernize legacy applications with cloud services. And let’s face it – technology initiatives, such as multi-cloud, live or die by the people who implement them.

Further complicating the situation is that the culture often hasn’t evolved at these organizations, leaving IT still relegated to a “support function,” as opposed to a driver of business outcomes and innovation. To top it all off, these companies are under the constant threat of disruption from both industry goliaths like Amazon and new-age startups born in the digital age. In short, traditional IT is facing pressure from all sides, creating challenges in their ability to modernize.

Clarifying the way forward

So let’s slow the hype train. Yes, multi-cloud is great in theory. But success at scale in the enterprise does not (solely) depend on technology. Employing two clouds instead of one won’t magically resolve the deeper systemic issues that persist in most enterprises. And yes, it’s ironic that Skytap — a vendor that offers technology to help organizations modernize — is proposing that technology isn’t the ultimate answer to improving the state of the enterprise. But we understand as well as anyone that for any type of technology initiative to persist — be it multi-cloud, modernization, or digital transformation — organizations must first start with people, process, and culture.

The good news is traditional IT teams are frequently built on a rich history of innovation, deep knowledge of business priorities, and an often very clear understanding of the need for cloud. From my time at Deloitte to my current role leading Skytap’s client services practice, I’ve worked with incredibly talented individuals and teams driving real, positive change within enterprises. In my next post I’ll share three keys to solving non-tech problems in enterprise technology synthesized from my many customer experiences. In the meantime, I recommend you read our e-book on critical considerations for modernizing traditional applications as part of an effective multi-cloud strategy.  

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