What Business Leaders Really Think About Cloud

Joe McKendrick| Forbes

Cloud computing means more than cheaper and better-run IT resources. It means new ways of doing business, many of which have yet to be discovered. But some solid examples of cloud-enabled transformation are now surfacing.

Recently, research firm Saugatuck Technology reached out to 53 very senior IT and business leaders using social media tools to gauge how important and impactful cloud (and related technologies such as mobile, social, big data, advanced analytics and sensors) are in driving business innovation.

In a part quantitative, part qualitative study, executives provided views on technologies paving the way for business innovation. About 75% of the respondents are CIOs or CTOs, and more than two-thirds in companies with greater than $1 billion in revenue.

The main takeaway: Executives recognize the cloud means more than very efficient IT. As Saugatuck CEO Bill McNee explains it, top executives recognize that cloud and its related disruptive technologies “is not only about cost savings and internal process improvement, but about innovating the way that companies engage with customers and partners, and in terms of their ability to deploy profitable new business models.”

Some highlights from the study:

Executives recognize the potential opportunities cloud is creating for their organizations. More than two-thirds, 68%, of the C-level executives ranked cloud as “very important” or “extremely important,” while none rated cloud as “not important.” As the CFO of a large manufacturing company put it: Cloud adoption favorably “impacted our ability in manufacturing traceability and quality with our cloud ERP system to meet customer requirements for the better. Also, gave employees better access and control with electronic workflow and mobile.”

The most disruptive forces affecting businesses the most these days include mobility, cloud and advanced analytics, Saugatuck finds. Separately, they’re having an impact, but when combined, the impact is even stronger, executives say. As the CTO of a large hospitality company related: “Transforming available data into collective awareness is a primary goal for us. The mobility solutions our team uses when meeting clients around the world has enabled our sales directors to function at their best. A smart infrastructure must support the different roles that users might play and private cloud for us has been a great support. Public Infrastructure has not been as reliable and adaptable yet.”

Cloud is facilitating speed to market. “In particular, several executives cited cloud’s role in the creation of new information-based products and services, and its role in helping to distribute them,” McNee says.  As the CTO of a large media company said: “As a media company cloud-based delivery platforms have been key for our distribution needs (e.g. what the postal service last century, cloud is performing now). Especially as it pertains to rich content and content that’s reformatted for various devices. All our digital delivery platforms – web, tablet, smartphone rely on infrastructure, services and software to provide rapid innovation and delivery.”

Corporate culture — not technology — is the greatest obstacle to business cloud. The executives also expressed the view that cloud-based innovation may take time within their organizations — funding and culture are seen as the greatest impediments to innovation. This is especially the case within older and heavily regulated industries. (Ironically, the U.S. federal government has been extremely aggressive about cloud adoption across its agencies.) Few saw technology itself as a hindrance.


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