The world around us may currently be dominated by geopolitics, but our daily lives are still powered by digital. Cloud, mobile, the Internet and analytics have combined to enable us to improve customer and citizen service and run our organisations more efficiently.
Last week, at London Tech Week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, announced a ‘Future of Compute Review’, stating that high-performance computers and quantum capabilities were vital for powering the technologies of the future. The review will focus on access to compute, provision based on use cases, infrastructure design, security, enablers, sector needs and the role of government.
Some of this technology is real today. High-performance computing (HPC) enables the analysis of complex seismic data in the cloud for carbon capture and storage; quantum simulations are starting to help scientists better understand molecule and sub-molecule level interactions which can lead to breakthroughs in chemistry, biology, healthcare, and nanotechnology.
“For organisations using this technology today and hoping to exploit its potential in the future, the cloud is a motorway to those capabilities.”
The vital role of cloud in the future of compute
Cloud is not the only way to harness their potential, but for many enterprises, it’s the main route to market.
The Government has also recognised the vital role of cloud.
To use cloud as the route to unlock the future of compute, I believe there are three key things we need to get right:
- our understanding of value
- our talent
- our cloud ecosystem.
Understand the value of cloud to your business
Let’s start with value. We’re working with many UK enterprises to help them accelerate their cloud strategies. Those with the clearest understanding of why they’re moving to the cloud are considerably more effective than those who lack that clarity about how cloud supports their business strategy.
Identifying why you’re using cloud – what processes or mission it’s going to support – is key. If you don’t, your engineers will simply build a slightly better cloud than they’ve done before – whether or not that supports your organisation’s mission.
There’s a lot to pick in cloud. And that means there are a lot of blind alleys if you don’t build with purpose.
For example, energy companies are some of the biggest users of HPC in the world. The largest have built out their cloud estate with purpose – to make innovation using HPC, AI and analytics easier. In fact, much of the industry’s decarbonisation agenda – the businesses that will drive the energy transition – are being built in the cloud.
In the pandemic, one FMCG organisation used the cloud to build AI that could analyse opening hours and reviews from Google and predict the return of demand in the restaurant trade following the pandemic. It was able to do that because it focussed on building a cloud that would give it analytics heft, with a particular focus on forecasting.
Knowing the spaces in which we will use the future of compute helps us build our estates to deliver on this potential – and accelerate innovation.
Grow the skills to harness cloud
Of course, there’s an elephant in the room. We simply don’t have enough skilled cloud engineers. Demand is outstripping supply.
No surprises then that digital skills are a key pillar of the Government’s UK Digital Strategy, which commits to giving UK technology businesses access to the skills they need to innovate and grow. The strategy sets out ambitions for strengthening the digital education pipeline, developing advanced digital skills (with new AI PhDs) and attracting the brightest and best globally – with two new visa schemes to make recruitment of overseas skills easier.
A renewed focus on skills development is key. If the UK’s going to lead in the future of compute, technology leaders can’t rely just on recruitment or poaching talent. We need to adopt a mentality where we’re committed to growing our own cloud engineers – and investing in their development no matter where we are in the economic cycle.
At KPMG, we’re hiring people with skills in cloud at all levels. But a big part of our approach is ‘grow your own’. We’ve hired more apprentices in cloud than ever before, and we’ve relaunched our cloud academy.
Engage with an ecosystem of innovative alliances
As the future of compute evolves, new capabilities emerge, and once complex capabilities become market standard. So, the strength of the UK’s cloud ecosystem will be vital, with potentially new and unorthodox partnerships, as well as strong alliances with cloud providers.
These alliances need to be shaped so enterprises can unlock specific sources of value for their organisation and deliver the right talent. They will include universities and start-ups as well as established firms, both small and large. Government has a convening role, but organisations who consume these capabilities need to actively participate and organise their own ecosystems.
The most successful enterprises will be those that forge partnerships that enable them to exploit the cloud ecosystem to deliver. After all, it’s through growth and innovation that we’ll meet the challenges of inflation and geopolitics.