They have argued that digital, far from being a new technology fad or fashion, represents a fundamentally new way of doing business and delivering goods and services and that it can create whole new markets.

The significance of the digital revolution is being grasped by chief executives and the wider C-suite. They live in fear of being left behind by current competitors or being swept away by a start-up, such as Uber, that can move from concept to hyper scale consumer adoption in just a few years.

This change, largely driven by consumer expectations and emerging technologies, is going to increase in velocity, not stabilise, in 2017 and that means organisations must step up their digital transformation efforts.

Many CIOs and business technology leaders have created new digital front ends for their existing operations and they have rolled out successful proof of concept trials in their organisations. But creating successful trials and putting a new digital skin on existing products and services will not be enough in future. (https://www.cognizant.com/the-work-ahead/europe)

If digital transformation is to be more than a buzzword it must mean creating new operating models that can support the rapid deployment of new products and services.(https://www.cognizant.com/digital/digital-business-self-assessment) But the fundamental operational transformation this requires is hard, disruptive and potentially expensive.

Like it or not, cash will remain an issue in 2017. No matter how engaged the CEO and CFO are with the concept of digital transformation, they have to deliver on shareholder expectations, and they have to sweat the assets and investments they have already made. With the economy softening amid global political uncertainty, this means that investment funds for innovation are likely to be at a premium.

Faced with this challenge, Sai Krupa Sagar, the European VP-Cloud Services of Cognizant says, “CIOs have a challenge. They must think about time to market, simplification of operations and the automation and industrialisation of business processes.

“This means focussing on those projects and technologies that can win, better serve and retain customers and at the same time, identify savings in essential, but routine back office operations. Cloud-native solutions offers access to new technologies, while hybrid cloud can deliver more immediate cost savings that can be ploughed back into digital transformation and customer service projects.”

Now in its second decade, enterprise cloud certainly offers far more than its original value proposition of reducing capital expenditure by turning it into operating expenditure. Cloud is the foundation for digital. It is a platform for innovation – mobile, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and many other new technologies are available to all organisations via cloud, and most would have little enterprise value without cloud.

It is a platform for rapid application delivery – the key factor when an organisation is trying to speed it's time to market for new products. Cloud offers a break from traditional application delivery methods and success metrics with Agile and DevOps methodologies focussing on quality, speed and above all value, rather than previous measures of cost and efficiency.

Cloud is also the platform for rapid operational transformation, thanks to Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, and Platform as a Service. Cognizant and other service providers are offering to significantly simplify clients’ existing IT workloads through application rationalisation and a drive to commercial, off-the-shelf products, application platform simplification and modernisation of service experiences.

For Cognizant this is achieved through its ‘Cloud Steps’ approach which offers solution blueprints and significant automation with strong governance and cost control for transformation project. Cognizant delivers this via a combination of data centre modernisation and the use of hyper scale commercial clouds, such as the AWS Cloud and Microsoft Azure Cloud.

This approach was essential for one UK retailer’s fundamental overhaul of its customer loyalty system. Cognizant was able to deploy a cloud-native, up-to-date solution with micro services, cloud APIs and, automated software deployments, which helped drive a 70 percent rise in shopper visits, higher shopping basket totals and the re-engagement of lapsed customers.

The same methodology was used with the New England Health Exchange Network, a not-for-profit health care consortium, whose members include 55 hospitals, eight health insurance plans and thousands of practitioners in the North-eastern United States. Cognizant is helping the organisation move to the cloud and replacing a federated model where each of the member organisations processes their own transactions with their own ways of exchanging data, with a central hub and spoke model of exchange services. (https://youtu.be/-455c-xOBDY)

A third example is that of Geneia, an innovative healthcare analytics company that wanted to expand its offerings and client base but had issues of scalability, cost efficiency, compliance, security and infrastructure management with its on-premises infrastructure. Cognizant was able to build a 100% cloud infrastructure for the company that overcame those problems and allowed Geneia the, scalability and flexibility to swiftly onboard customers and meet their evolving needs. (https://www.cognizant.com/cognizant-campaign/healthcare-analytics-company.pdf)

These are the sorts of problems that CIOs are increasingly facing and in 2017 many will increase both the quantity and quality of their cloud deployments as a secure, cost-effective way of finding solutions.

The pace of cloud enabled infrastructure consolidation will increase in 2017and cloud will be more and more widely recognised as the strategic enabler of digital business operations and innovation. Some large organisations will shift from being consumers of cloud services to providers of cloud services, but wherever your organisation sits in the cloud ecosystem, it will need partners that are committed to open standards and who deploy open source technologies.

It will also need partners that recognise that while cloud is the key transformative technology in the digital era; one cloud does not fit all. There are industry and regional issues and alternatives to consider, which cloud service providers may be able to manage for your organisation more easily than you could yourself.

For CIOs and business technology leaders, perhaps the only thing certain about 2017 is uncertainty. The business environment is changing rapidly. Game changing technologies are emerging and being deployed more rapidly than ever before. Customers, whether B2C or B2B, are more demanding than ever, with expectations conditioned by the best-of-breed not the average offerings. In these circumstances the organisations that survive and thrive will not only talk about digital transformation, they will use cloud to deliver operational excellence to support constant change.