Which way now for organisations at a cloud crossroads?

UK Cloud Survey: Opportunities opening up for those that can become 'cloud-powered'

person wearing AR glasses

Organisations find themselves at a crossroads in their ability to deliver and capture value from tech-powered investments. Where they go from here will dictate how successfully and sustainably they transform to keep pace with changing demands from customers, employees, investors and regulators.

Cloud technologies - from infrastructure and platforms, to applications and more - have become a critical enabler of ongoing transformation, and are key to creating continuous value from data and fast-growing technologies such as AI and generative AI (GenAI). 

Those that have already reinvented their business and operations through cloud modernisation report fewer barriers to success. They are realising value at twice the rate of companies running outdated systems and processes and are expecting to see continued revenue growth of 15% or greater

“Organisations that drive their modernisation agenda with conviction and clear cloud-powered commercial strategies will create competitive advantage. They will achieve value faster, create flexibility for the future and most importantly create value from new tech-enabled IP and data. Ultimately, that can lead to a sustainable advantage in continuous innovation, whether through flexible operational processes or ongoing business model reinvention.”

Warren Tucker
Cloud and Digital Transformation Leader, PwC UK

Success lies in the greater value cloud technologies create in pursuit of objectives such as growth, improved agility, business model reinvention, lower cost, greater resilience and a more environmentally sustainable operation.

However, while many organisations are already unlocking value, there is a risk of a gulf opening between those who have seen the potential and taken decisive action and those holding back. 


are ‘all-in’ on cloud and have scaled it throughout the organisation to create greater value


believe they will have all operations in the cloud within two years, but will action match their ambition?


of organisations say they will increase their cloud budget this year

Exclusive research from PwC UK - which surveyed 407 UK business and tech leaders, from organisations of various sizes and across 25 different industries - reveals that while few question the value of cloud, many are being held back by concerns about budget, leadership and skills.

Transformation will require organisations to change perceptions - to look beyond migration and towards innovation. 

Cloud remains an untapped opportunity for many

Levels of cloud adoption vary significantly across organisations and industries. Some have been slow to adopt, while those in industries such as banking, insurance and media have driven adoption hard. Wherever businesses are in their tech transformation, the speed at which technologies are evolving means there is now an urgent need to accelerate strategies. Those that do not have a fit-for-purpose cloud and data strategy will get left behind, unable to grasp the benefits of new technologies such as AI and GenAI that depend on cloud. 

While 35% of respondent organisations might be ‘leading adopters’, exploiting cloud services for IT modernisation, just 16% are considered to be truly ‘cloud-powered’. These organisations have gone ‘all-in’ on cloud, with adoption scaled throughout the business - from customer-facing applications and revenue-generating services to back-office and infrastructure. As a result, they are more likely to achieve measurable value: faster time to market, increased innovation, better customer experiences, cost savings, and more.

And that value gap looks set to increase as those with people, processes, data and applications running on modern cloud platforms move faster and capture greater value through innovative tech such as AI and GenAI. Organisations that have already moved these technologies to the core of their business will see even greater success. 

Tellingly, organisations that are all-in on cloud also expect to see measurable returns on investment within the next 12 months, across a range of areas, from agility to resilience.

Cloud-powered companies are significantly more likely to achieve measurable outcomes within the next 12 months across a range of business areas versus ‘other companies’ that have not scaled cloud throughout their organisation

% of organisations that said cloud technology is expected to deliver measurable value within the next 12 months across different outcomes

However, not everyone is so advanced, with many uses still tactical and IT-centric. Around a third of respondents are only using cloud for IT improvement and rewriting existing applications, with one in ten using it purely for migration of existing applications and workloads.

Some have broad challenges to overcome, from budgetary constraints, to a lack of skills and technology leadership. Others have partial or ‘patchwork’ deployments of cloud, leaving their current technology inconsistent with their future need. Even some cloud-powered companies may need assistance locating new revenue streams or unlocking potential.

“A lot of the issues holding organisations back are cultural, rather than technological. Organisational legacy can be a real barrier to the business model reinvention that cloud technologies can enable. Educating is key at all levels of the organisation, including board members and executives, to overcome these barriers and break down the silos across divisions, particularly between technology and business. The most successful organisations have tackled this holistically through leadership, collaboration and education.”

John Lyons
Global Digital Banking and Cloud Transformation Leader for Consulting, PwC UK

Overcoming such barriers requires a collaborative, enterprise-wide approach. But there is often a concern about whether leaders have the sufficient expertise and experience needed to drive the necessary change. 

Changing mindsets through leadership

Ushering in a new way to do business demands significant change to how the organisation operates. Those that don’t transform operations processes, procedures and people as part of any cloud strategy will find costs can spiral quickly. Many have previously come unstuck here, making the wrong strategic decisions ahead of adopting cloud technologies, ending up with little more than a costly migration and expensive ongoing management costs.

One way of enabling organisations to recognise and embrace the need for change is through executive upskilling. We’re increasingly seeing forward-thinking executives looking to understand where cloud-based services can unlock commercial opportunities. Without the right level of c-suite education, organisations risk missing key areas of opportunity, underinvesting in change, or failing to secure the full competitive advantage cloud technologies offer.

“Leaders have to understand the journey they're going on, and how it changes their business, whether you're the CEO, CFO, CIO. True cloud transformation fundamentally changes your operating model and working environment.”

Chris Oxborough
Cloud Transformation Leader for Risk, PwC UK

The desire to embrace GenAI is one such example. Despite 38% of leaders looking to invest in GenAI and machine learning in the next 12 months, few are aware they may not yet be in a position to deploy it successfully. Fragmented cloud adoption means this type of technology is only likely to exacerbate poor systems and architecture, or highlight the lack of data control throughout the business. 

For many in the c-suite, investing time in understanding the possibilities of cloud technologies has historically not been a priority. It must now become one, requiring a change of leadership mindset and embracing curiosity.

The power of collaboration

Our survey also reveals an inconsistent approach as to which senior leaders are involved in decision-making around major cloud-based transformation initiatives.

Respondents noted a mix of individuals from across the c-suite. This is encouraging as it suggests organisations increasingly recognise the broader value that cloud services can unlock - it's no longer just about replacing data centres or improving IT resilience, but about collaborating with the wider business and helping functions understand and capture the value that cloud services can offer.

However, such an approach can create risks to decision-making, focus and execution. Executives with a technology-heavy background, for example, can sometimes push an agenda that focuses on a tech-centric transformation, investing in expensive and over-engineered solutions. Conversely, those with a stronger finance focus can risk constraining investment, ambition and execution speed by focusing on incremental change, short-term cost-reduction and immediate returns.

Cloud-powered organisations have usually found a way to collaborate in the boardroom and at senior executive level, often by linking cloud technologies and services to a much larger strategic transformation. Tactical, functional cloud deployments can often run in parallel to create value, but the strategy has to be joined-up and organisation-wide. 

“We’re working with boards to help them understand the strategic potential of cloud, from the business case and the implications on financial planning and budgeting, through to the new risks that need to be managed. We see significant opportunities across all industries, more recently powered by GenAI, but there are still a great many boardrooms where cloud is seen purely as a tech initiative and a lack of appreciation that cloud transformation and adoption needs to be curated around business priorities.”

John Lyons
Global Digital Banking and Cloud Transformation Leader for Consulting, PwC UK

The AI Imperative

Executives increasingly recognise that data has become the critical component in transformation efforts, whether it's using AI to drive efficiency or in creating new commercial opportunities.

Access to richer, better data and insights enables smarter decision-making and greater AI insights, giving organisations the power and freedom to create new revenue streams and prospects. Capturing data across the entire business - from customers, suppliers, and supply chains, to operations departments, and more - will also translate to clearer benefits in areas such as measuring progress to sustainability goals and being able to support ever-deepening ESG reporting requirements.

“Take a business priority such as sustainability. Cloud provides the foundation to quickly and reliably collect data from across an organisation, its supply chain and logistics networks, to inform smarter decisions and provide more robust reporting to support effective net zero transformation and provide assurances to investors in a way that delivers measurable value.”

Rachael Hampton
Cloud Transformation Leader for Private Sector Clients, PwC UK

In its simplest form, that might mean using data to drive growth through better understanding of customers and market trends, creating new AI based services, or improving workflows and services. But the real value increasingly comes from commercialising the data itself - for example, the ability to sell anonymised insights on cloud application exchanges, unlocking entirely different business models and streams of revenue.

An enterprise-wide data strategy - powered and enabled by modernised cloud-based applications, platforms and services - also allows organisations to bring in machine learning and AI to reduce costs, add intelligence and increase speed. When aligned with defined ambitions for value creation and coupled with the right solutions, technologies like GenAI can unlock the potential of an organisation's data to bring transformative results.

“When harnessed effectively, data can create distinctive commercial value for organisations. Knowing what your most important data is, how clean it is, and where it sits in your cloud infrastructure is fundamental to success - but is never as easy as it sounds.”

Johan Jegerajan
Chief Technology Officer for Consulting, PwC UK and EMEA

Getting the right skills in the right place

Even with the right investments in cloud, aligned leadership and a commercially focused strategy, success isn’t guaranteed. Having the right people in place is equally as important in overcoming barriers and delivering successful transformation.

“With such a shortage of critical technology skills in the market right now, we’re working with clients to help them consider what they can do themselves to address the capacity need, and who they need to partner with to gain extra capability.”

Jennifer Richards
Cloud Transformation Strategy Leader for Deals, PwC UK

In terms of building out the skills they need to unlock added value, in areas such as data and analytics, organisations believe hiring and contracting individuals will be their primary route. But with these skills in high demand, they will inevitably need to explore other avenues, too.

Leading organisations are developing strategies that balance recruiting, upskilling and external support. For many, that’s upskilling their current workforce while rethinking how to use standardised technology and automated solutions to better drive efficiency, and reduce workload for their people.


of respondents will look to hiring or contracting to plug skills gaps


believe that upskilling their existing workforce will provide them with sufficient talent


will look to outsourcing/managed services to deliver the in-demand skills and capabilities they need

Some are using strategic partners to not only help fill skill gaps, but deliver a multi-year transformation at the same time as upskilling their workforce. These ‘transformational’ managed services often see cloud-based technologies, automation, AI and new capabilities delivered as one, effectively enabling an organisation for continuous change and transformation.

Another approach emerging is in the form of industry cloud solutions. Typically pre-designed and cloud-based, these technologies set out a template of what a cloud-powered business could look like. These templates can help senior executives visualise, test and validate strategies, to ensure they make the right investment choices for any transformation. Such models can also help leaders better understand the unique opportunities in their industries - for example, how cloud can support regulatory requirements, change ways of working, improve operational resilience or provide differentiated customer and employee experiences.

Turning ambition into reality

Expectation has always been high when it comes to cloud technologies, yet some organisations are still struggling to capture the full value or to further strategic goals. 

But those that have seen success have clear, common traits. Leadership is equipped and tech-savvy, with a business-focused approach. Any strategy is business-led, ambitious and extends across the organisation, with investments in people and changes to how they work. Individuals understand the strategic value that building technology capability brings as a source of differentiation, and how a different approach to working with partners on transformation can help reinvent the business.

Organisations have an important decision to make when it comes to going all-in on cloud. The good news is the path to success is clearer than it has ever been. And with the imperative to act only likely to get more pressing as technologies like AI and GenAI become increasingly mainstream, we will increasingly see the gaps widen between the cloud ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. The decisions organisations take at this cloud crossroads will be critical to the strategy they implement and the future success that follows.  

“Leaders are recognising and exploring the opportunities that cloud-based transformations can offer to all parts of their business. Those that are going ‘all-in’ on cloud and moving beyond migration to fully modernising their business will be the first to capture the full value from becoming cloud-powered. They’ll be able to reinvent their business models, outperform the competition, save cost and deliver radically better services to customers and citizens.”

Warren Tucker
Cloud and Digital Transformation Leader, PwC UK

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Warren  Tucker

Warren Tucker

Partner, UK Cloud and Digital Lead, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7768 237760

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