Is Cloud Computing Transforming the Workplace?

It’s hard to overestimate the significance of this culture change: just as businesses needed to evolve by the introduction of the PC or the internet, the cloud represents another decade defining shift of evolution.

Perhaps what is most interesting is that we’re seeing business ambitions start to outstrip the technology and services on offer – cloud is still in its nascent phase but we’re already visualising increasingly ambitious ways to apply the services delivered by cloud computing technology. Practices such as remote working, accessing work data from any device and allowing access to real-time data streams are only possible with cloud computing technology. And now, with mobile web usage set to outstrip desktop use in 2014 it’s clear that cloud adoption is more vital for businesses than ever before.

While this new era of remote working is ostensibly a benefit for organisations, with employees enjoying greater levels of productivity than previously, this new way of working requires a robust and flexible IT infrastructure that is underpinned with a strong secure, resilient foundation.

So what transformations can we expect to see now that cloud technology is becoming an IT essential (rather than a competitive edge)? For a start, the cloud has substantial implications for every organisation’s operational efficiency. The advantages of on-demand services have been talked up to the point of excess, but a reduction in IT maintenance costs, increased automation, rapid scalability, a simplified IT framework and the movement from CapEx to OpEx are all real benefits for any business. Put simply: a business can now run its entire infrastructure more efficiently and for a lower cost.

While each organisation is on its own cloud journey the technology is already having a big impact on the role of IT within an organisation. The nature of the cloud means IT departments can shift their focus, taking IT from being an unavoidable cost centre to being an epicentre for value creation.

Through the cloud chief information officers (CIOs) can now drive value for the organisation, developing innovative applications delivered within a Software as a Service (SaaS) framework. Whether that’s to support employees or external stakeholders (e.g. customers and partners), that will help open up previously untapped business opportunities. Cloud allows businesses to offer instant access to data and services for both employees and customers alike – something that has become increasingly essential in today’s “always-on” society.

With organisations poised to invest significantly over the next three to five years in refreshing their IT infrastructure, there is an opportunity for senior IT decision-makers to set out their stall and demonstrate the tangible benefits IT can deliver to the organisation.

Amid this revolutionary change, there are new challenges for the CIO in attempting to govern their organisation’s data flow. The increase in flexible working has transformed the CIO focus from attempting to control individual devices to monitoring how users are accessing the organisation’s data. CIOs can now manage their organisation’s entire infrastructure from a single, centralised location. This means growing a business becomes much simpler as end-users can be added to systems quickly, no matter what their location. With such minimal setup costs businesses can afford to be bolder when expanding into new markets.

The case for cloud is starting to now be won, business are no longer asking “why cloud?” but “how do I get there?” It’s a pivotal era for IT and one where the most creative and innovative organisations, rather than their conservative counterparts, are going to thrive and emerge from this period of austerity stronger than ever.

Though for all the discussion of new working practices and innovative ways to drive value and revenue across the business, cloud adoption may come down to simple economics. Attempting to bury your head in the sand and writing cloud off as a fad is comparable to a business investing in typewriters rather than mobile devices.

Ultimately, cloud has come so far that you can now run entire business processes on a resilient platform that offers unprecedented levels of availability for your enterprise, at a fraction of the previous price.

Simon Withers is vice-president, global cloud product, SunGard Availability Services