By 2016, cloud will matter more to business leaders than to IT, according to the IBM Center for Applied Insights. In fact, cloud’s strategic importance to business leaders is poised to double from 34% to 72%. That’s more than their IT counterparts where only 58% acknowledge its strategic importance.
This shouldn’t be surprising. Once business leaders got comfortable with the security of the cloud it was just a matter of figuring out how to use it to lower costs or, better yet, generate more revenue faster. IT, on the other hand, recognized the cloud early on as a new form of IT outsourcing and saw it as a direct threat, which understandably dampened their enthusiasm.
IBM’s research—involving more than 800 cloud decision makers and users—painted a more business-friendly picture that showed the cloud able to deliver more than just efficiency, especially IT efficiency. Pacesetting organizations, according to IBM, are using cloud to gain competitive advantage through strategic business reinvention, better decision making, and deeper collaboration. And now the business results to prove it are starting to roll in. You can access the study here.
IT, however, needn’t worry about being displaced by the cloud. Business managers still lack the technical perspective to evaluate and operationally manage cloud providers. In addition, there will always be certain functions that best remain on premise. These range from conformance with compliance mandates to issues with cloud latency to the need to maintain multiple sources of IT proficiency and capability to ensure business continuance. Finally, there is the need to assemble, maintain, and manage an entire ecosystem of cloud providers (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and others) and services like content distribution, network acceleration, and more. So, rest assured; if you know your stuff, do it well, and don’t get greedy the cloud is no threat.
From the study came five business reasons to use the cloud:
1) Better insight and visibility—this is the analytics story; 54% use analytics to derive insights from big data, 59% use it to share data, and 59% intend to use cloud to access and manage big data in the future
2) Easy collaboration—cloud facilitates and expedites cross-functional collaboration, which drives innovation and boosts productivity
3) Support for a variety of business needs by forging a tighter link between business outcomes and technology in areas like messaging, storage, and office productivity suites; you should also add compute-business agility
4) Rapid development of new products and services—with 52% using the cloud to innovate products and services fast and 24% using it to offer additional product and services; anything you can digitize, anything with an information component can be marketed, sold, and delivered via the cloud
5) Proven results –25% reported a reduction in IT costs due to the cloud, 53% saw an increase in efficiency, and 49% saw improvement in employee mobility.
This last point about mobility is particularly important. With the advent of the cloud geography is no longer a constraining business factor. You can hire people anywhere and have them work anywhere. You can service customers anywhere. You can source almost any goods and services from anywhere. And IT can locate data centers anywhere too.
Yes, there are things for which direct, physical interaction is preferred. Despite the advances in telemedicine, most people still prefer an actual visit to the doctor; that is unless a doctor simply is not accessible. Or take the great strides being made in online learning; in a generation or two the traditional ivy covered college campus may be superfluous except, maybe, to host pep rallies and football games. But even if the ivy halls aren’t needed, the demand for the IT capabilities that make learning possible and enable colleges to function will only increase.
As BottomelineIT has noted many times, the cloud is just one component of your organization’s overall IT and business strategy. Use it where it makes sense and when it makes sense, but be prepared to alter your use of the cloud as changing conditions dictate. Change is one of the best things at which the cloud is best.