Top CIO barriers to cloud value — and how Microsoft Azure helps solve them


  • Four critical strategies CIOs can take to overcome barriers that hurt cloud ROI.

  • As CIOs focus on delivering business value, Microsoft Azure can help them deliver on priorities.

  • Azure’s trust-first approach, tools for business and industry clouds are key features to consider.

It wasn’t long ago that corporate executives, when asked about cloud, would have redirected the question to their chief information officers (CIOs). Now, cloud is an integral part of their transformation agenda and top of mind for all business leaders. 

In fact, 92% of business leaders in PwC’s 2021 US Cloud Business Survey say their companies are either “all in” or have adopted cloud in many parts of their business. And 74% are engaged in their company’s cloud strategy.

The increase in adoption, however, has led to other challenges — namely companies realizing they’re not getting the kind of value from cloud they had expected. This is especially true among CIOs — 93% of whom have decision-making responsibility or ownership of cloud strategy. In surveying this group, along with other C-suite leaders, PwC found that there’s an average gap of 53% between companies seeking specific business outcomes and those realizing substantial value from their cloud investments.

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It’s not that CIOs don’t see value in cloud — they’ve championed this technology for years. Rather, there continue to be barriers within organizations that prevent companies from realizing cloud’s full benefit. For instance, 58% of CIOs say a lack of tech talent is an issue, while 57% are challenged to measure cloud’s value and 53% have trouble keeping executive stakeholders engaged in the transformation process. Many CIOs also face barriers specific to their sectors: for example, only 11% of consumer-facing companies say cloud has helped them increase profits, and half of tech, media and telecommunication executives cite poor integration with existing systems and data.

Many of these challenges can be eliminated or alleviated if companies do four things: 

  • Align on strategy choices and value: This requires making specific choices about how cloud can help you differentiate your business — what digital and technology capabilities you can develop, the customer problems you can solve and the role your company plays in industry or other ecosystems. 

  • Get in front of the next digital talent divide: Digital upskilling for all employees needs to be a continual focus. This includes cultivating skills around automation, data visualization and new ways of working on the business side. And in your tech organization, expertise in critical areas like DevOps, cybersecurity and cloud architecture is crucial. 

  • Start early to address risk and build trust: Considering trust angles, including cybersecurity, privacy and compliance, at the earliest stages of a cloud initiative can be an opportunity to enhance trust with customers or differentiate products and services.

  • Advance your ESG goals with cloud: As business leaders take a stronger role in addressing issues like climate change and decarbonization, they can leverage cloud in their ESG efforts. Cloud-based data management and reporting helps automate processes, standardize data and increase transparency. 

Why Azure and how can it accelerate your cloud transformation?

Microsoft Azure can help technology leaders deliver on these priorities. Made up of more than 200 solutions, the cloud computing service can serve as the backbone of a company’s IT infrastructure. With unlimited computing power, companies can run all kinds of applications without having to worry about servers slowing down or running out of space. It provides a secure place where developers can build applications, chatbots and automations quickly and cost-effectively, and then deploy them to users, clients and other stakeholders across their industry and business. Here are three ways it helps CIOs break down cloud barriers:

1. A trust-first approach to cloud

Trust in technology is a defining issue today. CIOs, in particular, worry about cloud privacy and cybersecurity, with 47% saying they present a significant barrier to realizing cloud value. Some executives still think that storing data in third-party clouds isn’t as safe as keeping information on-premises. In reality, cloud providers are responsible for keeping the IT infrastructure their clients use secure. But it’s a shared responsibility, with companies managing access rights and using other tools to enhance protection.

Microsoft, which has long made security a core focus, takes things a step further. The company has invested $1 billion in security-related research and has deployed 3,500 security experts who are responsible for safeguarding data stored on Azure. Microsoft has also developed Azure-related security solutions to help businesses anticipate cybersecurity threats and enhance data protection. This is an area CIOs are focused on: cybersecurity is the No. 1 cloud capability they are prioritizing in the coming year, according to our survey.

"Microsoft cloud is built on trust and security: trust in technology, trust in business model alignment."

Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO, MicrosoftMicrosoft Inspire Conference, July 2021

Azure DDoS Protection, for instance, protects companies from denial of service (DoS) attacks by monitoring potential threats and then stopping attacks before they occur. Azure Secure Score monitors a company’s cloud resources, including servers, storage, SQL networks and applications — and it tells them where they may have gaps.

2. Tools to empower business users

CIOs face a talent shortage when it comes to expertise like cloud architecture, cybersecurity and DevOps. While businesses will always need a strong technology team or external providers, as well as a continual focus on upskilling, Azure opens up cloud capabilities to a broader group of business users — not just technical experts.

Azure’s “low-code” programming environment lets business and functional leaders build tools and create automations that can replace manual tasks. For instance, one of its core solutions, Power Platform, comes with a variety of application-building programs, such as PowerApps, which lets users create consumer- and internal-facing applications; Power BI, which helps users develop data visualizations; and Power Automate, which enables quick automation of workflow and tasks. Each solution comes with pre-built templates and a drag-and-drop functionality that lets employees build everything from onboarding applications to expense-approval apps to chatbots. Now, instead of having to hire a team of developers, employees across a company can (within reason) build the tools they need to help problem-solve and accelerate innovation. IT teams get the standardization and control they seek, and business groups get the flexibility and speed they need to adapt and compete.

3. Innovation through hybrid and industry clouds

Many companies also need to stand up multiple clouds — private, public or a hybrid. Many financial services companies, for instance, use public clouds to run consumer-facing applications, but store sensitive client data in a private cloud. In many cases, the cloud services that run in the public cloud don’t operate in a private one and vice versa. With Azure, the same solutions work in both, which makes it that much easier for CIOs to run a seamless operation and ultimately get more value from their technology.

To help alleviate industry-specific challenges, Microsoft created Azure Industry Clouds, which pre-package a variety of industry-focused offerings together. Most industries, including healthcare, financial services, manufacturing and retail, have Industry Clouds, all of which allow businesses to immediately take advantage of Azure’s offerings. For example, ZF, a global technology automotive supplier, wanted to compare the efficiencies between its nearly 200 plants. It used Microsoft’s Industry Cloud and PwC’s Factory Intelligence solution to ingest and analyze data from plants in different countries through advanced analytics, visualizations and automated workflows. The company can now reduce conversion costs, improve overall performance and increase workforce efficiency and effectiveness across its facilities. 

More value on your cloud transformation journey 

These are just a few examples of how Azure can help overcome common cloud challenges. Microsoft has built a comprehensive cloud-based solution that can help companies grow, innovate and scale.

How to get started? The key is aligning on business objectives, which PwC can help with, and then finding a cloud partner like Azure that’s flexible, secure and powerful enough to help achieve your goals.

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Jenny Koehler

Partner, US Cloud & Digital Leader, PwC US


Matt Hobbs

Partner, US Microsoft Practice Leader, PwC US


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