Picture this: You’re a patient with a life-threatening illness who learns that the medication you need will be brought to market years early. Or you’re a pandemic-pounded executive able to charge customers via an innovative new business model—and you can suddenly set it up within weeks instead of months. Or even–You’re a researcher who moves from a flawed hypothesis-based clinical trial to a better one, due to datasets that become complete so quickly that such a thing has never been achievable before.
All of these scenarios might sound, and indeed still largely are, futuristic. But they’re not far off, due to an increasingly sophisticated and novel approach to technology known as “industry cloud.”
In a sense, industry cloud is simply the next step in the decade-plus transformation of business prompted by the rapid evolution of internet-based servers and storage, and special software built to take advantage of it. (So potent does basic cloud remain that nearly $500 billion will be spent on it this year by companies and organizations, a 20 percent increase over 2021.) But industry cloud is more. It is a breakthrough in its own right. Instead of a catch-all version of cloud, which is what most businesses and other organizations still essentially use, it’s designed and architected, first, to meet a specific industry’s objectives. It does that using templates outfitted with industry-specific features and functionality, and then it’s contextualized further to meet an organization’s needs thanks to a dedicated digital engineering team.
How does it work, exactly? Industry cloud can be thought of as a set of layers, from basic cloud infrastructure at the bottom to those bespoke bells and whistles at the top. Ryan Lockard, Global CTO, Cloud Technology Services at professional services company Cognizant, cites Philips HealthSuite, a template platform it offers in partnership with the leading health tech company, as a prime example. HealthSuite is pre-formatted to be legally compliant in the strictly regulated healthcare industry, exceptionally secure in a space where patient data confidentiality is key, and particularly cost-effective. “If you think about industry cloud as a house, then for this tool AWS [Amazon Web Services] poured the foundation, Philips put up the walls and the roof, and then we, Cognizant, customized the inside—the fit, the treatment of the kitchen, and all of that.”
So far, so good. Among the many organizations that use it, including those in biopharma, medical devices, hospital systems, and others are giants like Novartis. The pharma company specifically uses it to help reduce notoriously high patient dropout rates in clinical trials, employing HealthSuite’s simplified remote monitoring capabilities. (HealthSuite achieves this ease of remote use via by being designed to be compatible with a wide array of wearables, medical devices and apps.) Another early HealthSuite adopter, a global company which specializes in eye and vision care products, was able to transform cataract surgery by using predictive models based on the system’s customized data gathering and sharing capabilities, which span doctors, patients, and researchers. That company now anticipates and pinpoints surgical problems before they appear, and implements better solutions once they do.
Given industry cloud’s utility and, in a sense, the straightforward philosophy behind it, one might wonder why something like this hasn’t been on offer earlier. The reason is at least understandable: Costs would have been prohibitive if it needed to be created from scratch for each company. (In the same way that it did with Philips, Cognizant works with initial clients in diverse industries to co-create a basic industry cloud template. Then it takes this to market in conjunction with those clients, or sometimes on its own, using different deal structures.) The dust also needed to settle after the initial rush to a cloud-everything, all-the-time approach that executives across business adopted in the wake of cloud’s creation. That process went on steroids during the pandemic. “We’re definitely in a place where…leaders are now past initial cloud investment,” says Cognizant Americas Strategy and Innovation leader Brian Williams, who helped create HealthSuite. “Now executives are saying, ‘What do I do after [that basic stage of] lift and shift? How can I innovate on the cloud with new business models, new value, and capture opportunities?” Cognizant calls this moving from a “cloud first” to a “cloud smart” approach, in which industry cloud is at the tip of the new trend’s spear.
And it’s only gaining popularity. Cognizant isn’t alone in offering industry cloud, of course; everyone from so-called “hyper-scalers” like Microsoft to outfits like software company Red Hat (owned by IBM) have their own versions. But what sets Cognizant apart is the robustness and specificity of its offerings in banking, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and other industries, and its status as a services firm specializing in digital engineering rather than the cloud product itself. “When you think about a hyper-scaler [or other software provider] giving you the solution to simplify your technology landscape, it’s going to be that hyper-scaler’s product answer, right?” says Lockard. “But Cognizant is basically agnostic to the technology that you use. We’re just the integrator of the technologies. So in that sense we’re in a uniquely positioned space to have a strong point of view on this” and to keep customers’ needs paramount.
Cognizant is also forward-thinking in bigger ways. Lockard foresees a day when industry cloud transcends business concerns alone. “Let’s take away the capitalistic hat and think about this for a moment from a human level,” he suggests. “Today every provider, payer, and other institution in the field maintains its own datasets,” he continues. “But as we start normalizing against a smaller number of industry cloud solutions, by the nature of that contraction we’re creating a more normalized amount of data.” As a result, healthcare data, to use one important example, will become increasingly standardized. He continues: “That will allow us to accelerate time to insight and the time to novel discovery, so that we can bring about an even better understanding of anything from drugs to disease to mitigating factors” because the information can be shared across entire ecosystems of academics, patients, doctors, and businesses more inclusively. The end result, he promises, will “bring about better outcomes not only for patients, but better outcomes for society.”
To learn more about Cognizant Cloud Solutions, click here.