If I’m moving my applications and data to the cloud, and you—my business counterparty—are doing the same, why don’t we collaborate?
Instead of holding on to the legacy of siloed data centers—where I send you my view of the world, you send me yours, and we then reconcile and confirm to get anything done—imagine what we could achieve through a collaborative data infrastructure and single source of truth. If you’ve already taken the leap and moved from the physical world / data center into the digital one, why limit the possibilities to just your own applications and data?
A few months ago, Accenture announced a $3 billion investment to help clients become “cloud first” and accelerate digital transformation. This initiative lays the important foundation for enterprises to realize the benefits that cloud provides in terms of business value, speed, cost, talent and, perhaps most importantly, innovation—as moving to the cloud is the first step in developing a framework upon which to cultivate today’s innovations and implement them for what comes next. More than rethinking a technological infrastructure, this transformation is about challenging the belief that a journey to cloud is about a single organization.
The context and challenges of the past year have intensified the strategic imperative for companies to get their applications and infrastructure to the cloud. Achieving 80%+ cloud-based infrastructure not only creates maximum flexibility, resilience and efficiency, but also helps drive faster modernization and innovation.
Case in point: Accenture’s Future Systems research, which evaluated more than 8,300 companies on their technology journeys, found that the 10% of companies that have most excelled at adopting leading IT systems strategies (known as “Leaders”) were more than three times as likely to have adopted sophisticated cloud services than the bottom 25% of companies (“Laggards”)—and also achieved more than double the revenue growth.
In simple terms, most cloud journeys to date have started with companies moving from physical data centers to private cloud—using a private network with dedicated hardware and software limited just to their organization—to gain increased flexibility, control and scalability. Leaders then progressed further to public cloud—where the cloud provider owns and is responsible for the hardware, software and other supporting infrastructure—giving them greater cost, flexibility, reliability and scaling benefits. The next horizon of opportunity spans beyond one’s own four walls and firewall.
Consider the average supply chain / bill-of-lading processes to get goods from point of manufacture to point of consumption, which includes, on average, 20 bill-of-lading documents traded between the manufacturer, logistics and distribution providers, and retailers. Each step, with its own bill of lading, requires a back-and-forth set of messages and reconciliation, along with teams of back-office workers just to reconcile the data discrepancies between counterparties.
In a cloud environment, all those parties could share access to a single source of truth with the appropriate controls, security and business logic as to “who” could see “what” and “when.” This is enabled through the use of cloud-based multiparty systems—a combination of new techniques and technologies, including but not limited to areas such as blockchain, other distributed systems technologies (such as DLT), and privacy-preserving techniques and tools such as confidential computing. Cloud-based multiparty systems change the control point of data; no longer determined by “your cloud or mine,” it controls access to data based on policies set by all parties—from data owners to AI and application developers—regardless of where the data and compute take place. These data protections, built on top of cloud’s elastic architecture, make it possible to easily accommodate shared data opportunities.
The immediate value for parties that share business logic and access to a single source of information is the decrease in cumulative compute and storage costs. The long-term opportunity is the reshaping and reimagining of business processes that historically were limited by the focus on an individual company instead of a focus on an end-to-end holistic process unlocked by multiparty systems capabilities. It brings to mind one of my favorite African proverbs: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
Several industries have embarked on this journey to re-think how to transform their ecosystems using cloud-based multiparty systems. Key infrastructure leaders in the capital markets industry—the DTCC, ASX, Swiss/SDX and others—are building DLT-based multiparty systems that will simplify how securities are bought and sold through shared data infrastructure and tokenization. Microsoft is implementing a cloud-and-blockchain-based multiparty system for its cloud hardware supply chain delivering mine-to-datacenter traceability and end-of-life disposition while also achieving transparency on the sourcing of critical or raw materials. And here at Accenture, we’re collaborating with Nippon Express and Intel to implement a cloud-based multiparty system on DLT to address the urgent challenge of counterfeit drugs in the pharmaceutical supply chain. Together we’re building a pharmaceutical transportation network—including warehouses, trucks and maintenance capabilities—that will leverage supply sensors (i.e., IoT devices) to provide temperature control during transportation as well as RFID tags for tracking and automatically updating the shared data source.
The key to success for each of these projects is that the business and technology leaders involved reshaped their cloud journey from a solitary one to one done in partnership with others. The true value of the move to the cloud far surpasses cost-cutting and internal opportunities; it allows companies to rethink and reimagine their processes, their business, and even their industry. It can also help shift from a data accumulation structure, where only a tiny fraction (as little as 1%) of available data is ever analyzed, to one where we unlock and uncover shared learnings from much more of the data and apply it for the greater good.
The time to evolve the thinking from MY cloud journey to OUR cloud journey is now. Just as your counterparts are likely considering the move to the cloud, you should be considering the opportunities created between your organizations. Start with a simple conversation focused around co-innovation. Identify areas of redundancy between counterparts, where a shared view would improve the process, streamline data reconciliation and improve the experience for all parties. And consider new opportunities that previously were thought to be implausible due to technology barriers or siloed information.
The leading companies in the next phase of their journeys to cloud will be those that shed the orthodoxies of the old physical data center world and embrace working in multiparty systems. The ability to not just re-think one’s own business capabilities and processes, but to transform across an entire integrated business lifecycle and ecosystem—working confidently with partners, peers and customers—opens massive frontiers not just for greater efficiency, but more importantly, for new innovation, products and services. This is hard work, but it will yield tremendous value for those who take the leadership to drive it forward.
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