As Yogi Berra once famously said, there is no difference, in theory, between theory and practice— but in practice, there is. That’s certainly true for tech transformation projects at banks.
Most banks by now are well aware of the benefits of moving their tech stacks into the cloud. Most, likewise, are now a few years into their cloud transformation journeys. As reported in our Ultimate Guide to Banking in the Cloud, 94% of banking leaders say that more than half of their organization’s business will be in the cloud within three years.
Which makes this a great opportunity to step back and analyze the differences between theory and practice.
Drawn from our experience helping banks around the world accelerate and enhance their use of cloud technology, here are Accenture’s top 10 lessons learned for cloud transformation in banking:
1: Commit to providers intelligently—not excessively.
Cloud transformation is exciting because of what it can do for a bank, and because it’s new. Getting there first can also create real competitive advantage. With many banks eager to move to the cloud quickly, we’ve seen several of them sign inflexible, long-term service agreements that they later come to regret.
To avoid needing to renegotiate these agreements, we recommend making sure that your cloud team includes leaders and partners who can navigate the dynamic investment and discount opportunities that cloud providers will place in front of them. Large enterprises, for instance, can often access the discount tiers service providers offer without any associated lock-in. Align your cloud commitment with the deal that best matches the pace of change within your organization.
2: For-purpose is king in the cloud.
The cloud is a powerful tool for banks, but it’s not the only one in their toolbox—and it’s not the solution to every problem. Migrating everything that can be in the cloud as quickly as possible has proven to have adverse P&L impact for many banks. While the value case for exiting data centers is real and significant, to realize the cloud’s savings potential a bank needs to carefully consider the fit of cloud hosting for each of its services and applications—not to mention its impact on innovation. Time spent on detailed scenario mapping and on an intelligence strategy before making the leap can pay major dividends.
3: Governance is the problem, not the answer.
The regulatory nature of financial services combined with the newness of the cloud has led some banks to over-govern their cloud transformation teams. We’ve seen cloud projects get bogged down in governance structures that are well-intentioned but ultimately serve to hinder and even halt cloud transformation.
Of course, some governance is necessary. The trick, in our experience, is figuring out how make governance drive execution.
We recommend setting up a single accountable leader who is responsible for making your cloud transformation happen. Empower them to drive leadership consensus across all the different dimensions of the cloud journey, with the ultimate goal of moving the transformation mindset from “we need to meet all the time” to “we’ve empowered the right people to make the right decisions.”
4: DevOps paves the way.
Speed and agility are key benefits of many cloud transformations—but neither can be realized without a DevOps mindset. We recommend investing up front in fostering a DevOps culture to streamline sourcing cloud infrastructure, designing security and architecture patterns, and building developer tools.
You need an explicit focus on defining the capabilities and operating model your bank needs to meet the expected velocity of migration and operations in the cloud. If you don’t take the time to solve this, your transformation could capsize before it even launches.
5: Maintain multi-cloud flexibility.
The robust competition among today’s cloud services providers presents a panoply of options for the cloud-curious bank—so much so that paralysis-by-analysis is a real risk. One way to solve this is to go all-in with a single provider, but this comes with its own drawbacks. Instead, we recommend engaging multiple providers with a clear purpose in mind for each. Keep it as simple as you can (but no simpler!) and don’t forget about the power of open-source solutions.
6: If you build it, they might not come.
Investing in every part of cloud at the same time, without intake or management controls, is a recipe for a ballooning transformation budget. Pursuing every capability in a cloud provider’s catalog can also delay the introduction of capabilities that serve urgent business priorities. There are few crummier feelings than turning on an exciting and expensive new feature only to see no one use it.
To avoid that, we recommend creating connectivity early between the teams responsible for building the cloud services and the line of business leaders responsible for identifying and prioritizing demand. In the absence of any business imperatives, take a data-driven approach to identify the most likely-used capabilities.
7: Engineer the right engineers.
Like all technology, the cloud needs the right talent to maximize its impact. Experience has shown that internal promotions into certain cloud roles can often cause problems far beyond the initial migration efforts. We recommend finding leaders who can work with a DevOps mindset and leveraging seasoned partners to shape your bank’s cloud talent model.
The head of cloud operations will need to manage a set of ecosystem partners along their cloud upskilling journey. Something unexpected will go wrong along the way. Learning and adjusting is a good reason to keep driving change, not a reason to stop trying to change.
8: Remember that employees are customers too.
Talent retention is a major challenge for most banks today, especially if you are not giving your talent the chance to work with the latest tech. Your cloud journey can serve as a valuable way of keeping employees engaged and excited. It can also serve as a powerful introduction to new capabilities and ways of working.
We recommend incorporating direct access for employees to cloud service provider subject-matter experts and connecting your cloud journey to new positions in your bank’s career progression paths. Your teams should see cloud work not as something they have to do but as something they get to do.
9: TCO is not the only value lever.
Total cost of ownership, or TCO, is a very popular metric for the value of the public cloud. However, it doesn’t effectively capture every part of the cloud’s value, which can make for restless business partners during a long journey. We recommend introducing the concept of “value at stake” to round out the way you measure the value of the cloud, and that you look to monetize legacy assets stranded by the migration. For example, you might sell legacy data centers that are left behind to subsidize the cost of the migration.
10: Decode the enterprise cable bill.
The cloud unlocks a “pay by the drink” service model for banks that can create cost savings—but only if a bank can track exactly how much it is drinking. This can be surprisingly tricky. Take a data-driven approach to managing cloud spending to decode your cloud bill and closely track costs.
These 10 lessons have emerged from banking’s cloud journey to date. We’re under no illusion that this is the end. As cloud migrations continue, so will insights about how to best manage them. Keep your eyes peeled for more cloud migration tips from Accenture.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about your bank’s cloud journey, you can reach me here. You can also find the Ultimate Guide to Banking in the Cloud here.
Meet me at #SIBOS: Accenture’s financial services leaders will be at SIBOS to share our latest insights and solutions, and to showcase how we deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity to help our clients meet the future head-on. Find us at stand E86. If you’ll be there, don’t miss my mainstage Spotlight on digital value presentation, “Conquering the metaverse: Should securities firms start buying plots of virtual land?”, at midday on October 11, 2022. See you in Amsterdam!