Why a Cloud Economist makes perfect sense for financial institutions

Why a Cloud Economist makes perfect sense for financial institutions
Image courtesy of SolarWinds website

A cloud economist is familiar with the organisation’s short- and long-term needs, can strike a balance between competing requirements and recommend the right paths to profitability.

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For over a year now, the new normal has meant working away from traditional office settings and social distancing, which has affected our daily jobs. For financial services institutions (FSIs) in Asia-Pacific, this new normal has meant accelerating hybrid multi-cloud strategies that once seemed a long way off.

In a quickly changing economic landscape, cloud capabilities mean FSI services can more easily leverage emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning, and IoT to stay ahead. At the height of the pandemic, digital banking transactions hit record numbers, and banks were quick to react to the new needs of customers, demonstrating their capacity to innovate and reimagine operations.

However, it isn’t enough for banks adopting cloud-at-scale to make informed guesses about operational performance and user behaviour changes. It can also be easy to lose control of cloud budgets, especially when handling multiple cloud providers and environments. Fortunately, some banks are leveraging their domain expertise to realise the value of a new breed of cloud experts: cloud economists.

So what are cloud economists, and why are they becoming key contributors to the digital journey of banks and financial institutions?

The new breed of CFOs

Financial services have been using cloud services to improve customer relationship management (CRM), facilitate data analyses, and develop new software. According to IDC, more than 40% of Asia-Pacific’s FSIs run workloads and IT jobs in a multitenant public cloud; almost 30% plan to move from private to public cloud. These numbers were catalysed by COVID-19 and are only expected to grow.

However, it can be difficult to strike a balance between adopting necessary technology and its cost implications. This is where a new role—a cloud economist—can offer considerable assistance translating requirements, cost, and benefits across divisions. Simply put, a cloud economist has three goals: increase revenue, decrease cost, and remove risk.

Cloud economists largely live in two worlds: they’re acutely aware of their bank’s financial goals and metrics of success, and they have immense knowledge of the capabilities of different cloud environments, provider cost models, and the technicalities needed to bring the bank’s aspirations into reality. 

The cloud conundrum

Adopting an unsuitable service can lead to disastrous results. One study from the London School of Economics found large enterprises are losing out on a whopping US$258,188,279 a year due to a lack of cloud expertise.

Cloud economists come to the rescue by being uniquely able to understand and balance an enterprise’s set of short- and long-term needs, strike a balance between these competing requirements, and effectively recommend paths to profitable results. They can also offload executive demands at a critical time in the industry.

CFOs already have their hands full managing their banks’ critical financial health and portfolio, and to expect them to also know the difference between all the cloud platforms available can be a tall order.

Meanwhile, CTOs are busy chasing their enterprises’ digital transformation goals while reconciling outdated or obsolete infrastructure. Cloud economists work as an intermediary between CFOs, CTOs, and other key decision-makers, speeding up communication and making tough technical decisions capable of deciding the bank’s cloud-based future.

Where the superhero FSIs excel

Cloud developers are neither SysAdmins nor developers. In fact, many aren’t motivated by coding or network management roles. What they excel at is having a clear understanding of the strengths and limitations of different clouds and the real needs of the business when the sales period is over and production begins.

They can look at specific workload demands and quickly suggest whether AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud is the best fit. More importantly, they can help IT pros zero in on which combination of hundreds of cloud services will best meet specific business needs.

This is a skill particularly critical for banks, who are dipping their toes in new technology like cloud native, open-source application architectures, and containerisation.

Which cloud solution best supports capacity burst deployments, and which ones do we really need? What is the strategic goal of our multi-cloud environments? The cloud economist’s job is to translate the metrics of operations investment into clear dollars and cents talk stakeholders can understand.

In short, cloud economists know what IT needs, why they need it, how to obtain it, and how to help leadership ensure they reduce time to value in a financially sustainable manner.

Beat the tech talent crunch

According to the 2020 SolarWinds IT Trends Report, 46% of the respondents place cloud computing as a top staffing priority, but 48% believe tech pros entering the workforce today don’t have the necessary skills to manage modern, distributed IT environments. In Singapore, financial institutions such as DBS Bank and Standard Chartered have gone on hiring sprees, producing a shortage of technologists.

The rise of startups and industry disruptors in Southeast Asia have led to a high demand in tech talent, but while demand far outweighs supply in this part of town, it may not be as difficult to circumvent as we think.

Enterprises with deep pockets can attract cloud consultants with a demonstrated history of successful relationships within the finance industry.

These candidates would be familiar with both the technology and financial needs of banking institutions and would be more ready to jump into the role of a cloud economist. However, the next alternative can prove just as effective and successful: raising and developing cloud economists internally.

IT employees with a curiosity for value and cloud operations aren’t just looking to limit, reduce, or eliminate costs. Instead, they go beyond the general confines of traditional IT managers by finding undiscovered value in people, processes, and technology and often model multiple potential business outcomes in consideration of hypothetical technology decisions.

They further drive their value-add by pointing out underutilised resources and identifying new opportunities to innovate, improve offerings, and stay ahead of the curve.

Future-proof your cloud journey

If banks and financial institutions want to ensure their place and future in the new normal, it’s important for them to begin the search for their future cloud economists now.

Even if teams don’t have the resources for an expert in the role, they’re often aware of staff members who’d be great at leading the strategy conversation. Finding a cloud economist’s eye is ideal for IT cost optimisation to keep operations profitable and stakeholders happy.

Technology decision-making tends to bring out passionate conversation and yarns of old. Thinking more like an economist than a cost container can be an effective strategy to ensure the right technology is provisioned at the right scale and that it’s ready to answer the business call.


Patrick Hubbard is Head Geek at SolarWinds

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