UK Cloud Awards Q&A: Alex Hilton

The Cloud Industry Forum's CEO delivers his verdict on the UK's Virtual Cloudsspects

The UK Cloud Awards 2018 are now open to entries. In their fifth year, the prestigious awards recognise cloud innovation and customer focus by rewarding vendors in categories like best product, best project and individual achievement. Find out more and enter the awards here.

The Cloud Industry Forum will be 10 years old in 2019 - what key changes have you seen in the industry since its formation?

We've seen enormous changes in the industry since the Forum was established, both in terms of adoption but also attitudes, perception and use cases for cloud. Cloud has gone from being a nascent immature technology to an indispensable IT service, part of the modern IT estate in a cloud native world.

According to our research, seven years ago, not even half of organisations used cloud-based services, but today it's closer to nine in ten, with the vast majority reporting satisfaction with those services. Importantly, we're seeing that cloud is now delivering business agility, flexibility and tremendous cost savings.

Security remains a key consideration for businesses across all IT services, but it's clearly not the barrier to cloud services that it once was. Many now recognise they can improve their security posture by entrusting trusted and resilient providers with their IT. This shift owes much to the fact that over time, confidence has improved, but also a greater trust that data can be hosted with third party services.

More fundamentally, we've seen a big shift in the mindset of corporate UK. In the early days perceived cost savings were the biggest driver for cloud implementations, which was not necessarily the best initial approach. Today the cost savings are now proven when taken in tandem with the need for business transformation. With this shift, we're suddenly seeing some really interesting things happening in the industry with businesses of all sizes and from all sectors deploying cloud to fundamentally change the ways they operate and disrupt their markets.

The UK Cloud Awards are still going strong and are now in their fifth year - are you excited about the momentum?

The UK Cloud Awards have been going from strength to strength with every year so they are now recognised as the main IT cloud awards event, driving recognition and brand awareness for both winners and sponsors alike. There's a significant amount of innovation taking place in the cloud arena and the UK Cloud Awards - which were the first awards solely dedicated to cloud - provide an important platform from which we can celebrate the vendors, end users and individuals that are leading the way.

We've seen a marked change in the quality of entries since we launched the awards and the number of entries increases every year, reflecting the market adoption and maturity. This makes judging a challenging task, but we're excited to see what this year will bring.

You're also on the judging panel, what would make an entry grab your attention?

The awards were established to celebrate and highlight innovation in the UK cloud industry, and that's ultimately what we will be looking for. Is it new? Is it interesting? Is it innovative? A well written submission will make the case for why you're a worthy winner. Proof points, success stories, innovation accompanied by case studies are really important - if you're saying that your product is truly transformative, show us examples of where and how it has made a difference!

How has the last year in cloud been from your perspective? Are you expecting more entries than last year for example?

The cloud industry is evolving at a pace and the past year we've seen some really interesting examples of how cloud can fuel digital disruption and intersect with other next generation technologies like AI, Big Data and the Internet of Things. With that being the case, we're expecting more entries but also a wider range of entries, which will no doubt make for some interesting reading.

Do you think the role of cloud in business transformation and success will continue to grow?

Absolutely. Cloud is very much part of the business transformation agenda, and it is clear from our research that those companies with designs on digitally transforming themselves, would struggle to do so without the delivery model. Unbound, at least from a technology point of view, from fixed infrastructure and proprietary IT, businesses using cloud are free to take more risks, can more freely drive change within their organisations and can respond more quickly to changing market conditions. Cloud is the agent of digital disruption.

Are there any barriers or things to be wary of? (For vendors and businesses alike)

GDPR has (rightly) been getting a lot of air time, the focus on data security is intensifying for both vendors and end users so understanding responsibilities and accountability is paramount. CSPs need to be able to demonstrate they have the required capabilities to comply with the regulation, which is one of the reasons why we updated our Code of Practice earlier this year to incorporate key elements of the GDPR. Essentially this means that CSPs that have certified against the Code can prove their GDPR-readiness to the market and provide greater comfort to end users.
There is also a recognised digital skills gap in the market, where businesses lack the experience to drive transformation, this is not just about tech! It must start from the top.

How does the UK cloud industry compare with other countries? Are we leading the charge or following?

The UK has been a trailblazer in cloud and we've got an industry that can hold its own on the global stage. That's something we can be proud of and we very much hope will continue!

What's interesting as well is that cloud innovation is happening all over the UK - not just in Silicon Roundabout in London. We've received entries from every corner of the country, which is really encouraging to see and suggests that we've got the talent we need to maintain momentum in the industry.

Looking back on 2017, what's been your cloud highlight(s)?

We'll look back on 2017 as the year cloud went mainstream. The big vendors now have resilient and trusted services, whilst it is still a highly competitive market with frequent price fluctuations businesses can move forward with confidence that cloud delivers.

What are your key cloud prediction(s) for 2018?

We will focus heavily on cloud outcomes. This will be to offer businesses a better understanding of how the trailblazers and disruptors are really innovating the market. IoT will become more mainstream showing real commercial benefits and the vendor community will drive this innovation - cloud will be the key enabler of this.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

There is so much smart thinking and innovation happening in the UK. We really want to encourage businesses to submit their awards to give them the recognition they deserve. UKCA is one of the most prestigious events of the year, a real opportunity to showcase leadership - you've got to be in it to win it!

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