The term digital transformation will not be unfamiliar to many UK organisations in today’s fast-paced technological climate. The latest research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) reveals that 44 percent of UK organisations have already implemented, or are in the process of implementing, a digital transformation strategy, and a further 32 percent expect to have done so within the next two years.

Two in five UK businesses expect their organisation’s sector to be moderately or significantly disrupted by digital transformation within the next two years. However, the term ‘disrupted’ in this context, does not convey wholly positive connotations and is representative of a large number of businesses yet to enter the ‘digital age’ as we know it.

Many businesses are yet to convert for a number of reasons. CIF research from 2016 reveals that 80 percent of UK organisations are adopting the cloud in some form. For the other 20 percent, however, aside from the undeniable benefits of collaboration, the cloud pushes dangerous new boundaries that test both new IT admins and longstanding IT experts.

And whilst, unfortunately, the worst can occasionally happen – disasters which can be a huge obstacle for your business – paper documents and files stored on hard-drives are still vulnerable to unforeseen circumstances, such as an accident or malware wiping swathes of critical client data.

80% of UK organisations are adopting the cloud in some form Click to Tweet

Working with experienced cloud providers reduces this risk and makes it easier for businesses to ensure information remains safe and compliant with all appropriate regulations such as GDPR.

A recent study from Fujitsu found that ageing technology is a major barrier to digital transformation with 57 percent of the businesses surveyed admitting that existing technology is struggling to keep up with the demands of the modern digital world. In today’s climate, however, ageing technology is no excuse for stunting business agility and productivity, and ultimately letting a business fall behind its competitors.

So how can these organisations keep pace with the ever-increasing speed of doing business and “go digital”? The cloud is a great place to start.

Embrace the cloud

The first step to digital transformation is to embrace the cloud. According to CIF’s latest report, 92 percent of businesses state that cloud services are important to their organisation’s digital transformation strategy, with 49 per cent believing it to be ‘very important’ or ‘critical’.

The applications and services most likely to be cloud-based today are web hosting (65 per cent), Platform-as-a-Service (which covers many cloud options) and office productivity tools such as Microsoft Office 365, used by half of the respondents. However, the picture is expected to look somewhat different in three years’ time, and while adoption of these three application types will continue to climb, considerable growth in other areas is also expected.

By 2020, for example, three-quarters of respondents expect to have adopted cloud-based video conferencing systems, such as Skype for Business, while 70 percent plan to use cloud-based CRM applications.

83% of cloud users have successfully improved the reliability of their IT through cloud services Click to Tweet

Achieving business outcomes

Cloud-based solutions are helping businesses achieve their objectives, through speeding the pace of activity and decision-making and improving the way they run. CIF’s latest research found 83 per cent of cloud users have successfully improved the reliability of their IT through their use of cloud-based services, 85 percent have increased the speed of access to technology, and 76 percent have reduced the risk of data loss.  Especially important with the forthcoming GDPR deadline in May 2018.

Furthermore, companies can empower and enchant employees by using cloud-based tools that make it easier for teams to collaborate, communicate and provide access to a wealth of information previously siloed in different systems across the organisation. Optimising business operations depends on knowing what’s happening in the business now – and what’s likely to happen in the future – ensuring businesses are ahead of the game, and most importantly, ahead of their competitors.

Ditching the desk

It can be baffling how some businesses are not championing mobile working as a way to both speed up and enhance workflow. Now, as long as employees have internet access, they can work off shared files at any time – regardless of location. Mobile data enables team members to manage work processes wherever they are working from. Not only does this improve the productivity of the business, increased mobile working also means employers can recruit desirable candidates who are based outside the local area. The cloud enables the top candidates to work from anywhere, so physical location is no longer a barrier to employing the best possible staff.

Another advantage for businesses using cloud services are the flexibility they deliver: no longer are employees limited to the traditional nine to five office hours. Telecommuting helps to reduce the stress of a long daily commute, and by facilitating flexible working initiatives, it plays a vital part in creating a more motivated, happier and engaged workforce.

 The cloud and business clarity

The burden of having to organise an entire IT infrastructure whilst also managing and trying to grow your business can be time-consuming, stressful, and an inefficient use of resources. Using cloud services eradicates this problem, freeing up precious time to focus on the business.

Cloud services have the added benefit of reducing capital expenditure – a key advantage for SMBs with limited budgets and cash. Cutting unnecessary costs means funds can be redirected to the areas the business most needs, such as winning new customers. What’s more, with no need for in-house physical infrastructure, businesses will not incur unexpected maintenance costs, so there won’t be any nasty surprises further down the road.

While cloud computing is now clearly mainstream within the business, there are a number of obstacles, including Brexit, which may stand in the path of greater digital transformation. Given the government has just announced its latest digital strategy, intending to make the UK the “best place to start and grow a digital business”, there has never been a better time to explore digital transformation.

Cloud services are a vital part of this transformation, and businesses are encouraged to embrace it sooner rather than later. After all, harnessing the value of cloud computing can be liberating on many different levels, from streamlining communication to improving data security. For a predictable low monthly cost, using cloud services will help boost a business’s bottom line, enabling it to run a more efficient and ultimately, more successful business. In some ways, it’s a fundamental change, but at the same time, it’s merely a different way of enabling the same results – great customer service, looking after staff and growing the business profitably.