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Factoring cloud into your business' future

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Cloud computing shows no sign of dissipating in the current business and IT climate. As I wrote in my last post, Optus' 2012 Future of Business Report shows that cloud adoption is increasing in almost all sectors of the Australian economy, with only 8 percent of organisations uncertain of what cloud services they'll be using in three to five years time.


For organisations to maximise their investment in cloud, it's important to determine upfront how cloud can support their broader business strategy. Two areas to consider are how cost savings are best re-invested back into the business and how cloud can support a growing mobile workforce.


Re-investing cost savings into core business growth


Lowering costs is probably one of the most-touted benefits of cloud, but organisations need to understand just where savings will take place over the years. If we take something like Software as a Service, which the Optus 2012 Future of Business report suggests will be used by 47 percent of organisations within five years, the upfront savings of switching from a CapEx to OpEx model may not be particularly substantial. Where the long-term savings come from is the reduction of collateral costs: things like hardware maintenance and replacement, compatibility issues, and scalability. Under a cloud-based model, the monetary and labour costs of those issues are borne by the provider, rather than your organisation.


What switching to cloud offers is not purely "cost-savings" per se, but an increased ability to focus on your core competencies; selling, building your brand, developing new product, and so on. The monetary benefits might be substantial, but companies need to make sure their strategies divert their savings back into core business growth to make cloud really worthwhile.


Enabling the workforce


Cloud also provides the framework for greater mobility amongst your employees. More and more organisations now link mobility to more productive employees. For example, the broad network access of cloud-based services provides the ability for salespeople to connect to your organisation's systems in the field via a mobile device. Your sales force can then access resources faster and as required (such as if a lead requests technical specs for a less-common product) when meeting with clients, meaning a higher level of service and hopefully stronger lead generation. This can drive up your sales efficiency, resulting in better business results.


Organisations are recognising the importance of employee mobility. We're already seeing 28 percent of organisations offer CRM applications that run over the corporate network on mobile devices, with that figure rising to 50 percent  in next three to five years according to the Optus Future of Business Report.


IT personnel need to make the link between cloud and mobile strategy to fully realise the potential of both. Consider the level of mobility provided by potential cloud investments before you select one over another.


Part of the environment


When factoring cloud computing into your business strategy, it’s important to recognise the related technologies such as mobility, data security, application scaling, and a whole host of other areas which are themselves rapidly evolving. Organisations can set themselves up for success by not considering cloud in isolation but instead looking at their cloud investments in the context of their broader business strategy.


By Rodney Hayward, Optus Business Manager (Cloud Architecture and Development). More from Rodney on Twitter: @rodos


All views expressed are the author's own.