We live in momentous times for IT. Developments such as the modern democratization of AI, the emergence of quantum computing, the rise of the Internet of Things, the rapidly gaining metaverse and new cybersecurity threats obsess us. Not only that, these shifts force us to prepare for the potentially seismic effects on how we conduct ourselves as organisations.

And, underpinning all of these is cloud computing, the great uber-platform, enabler, and catalyst for rapid innovation. Such a glut of technological changes can potentially overwhelm CIOs, never mind non-technical executives left floundering in an alphabet soup of TLAs (three letter acronyms) and techno-jargon. In addition, if we’re not careful, that can prompt an analysis paralysis dynamic. So, sometimes it pays to zoom out and take a broader look at how IT choices relate to the business outcomes we’re all trying to achieve.
With all the above in mind, Unit4 recently took the pulse of IT decision-makers in a series of snap surveys that covered nearly 300 responses. The resulting findings provided some sharp insights into what cloud technology can help to deliver in the real world of organisations.

Cloud: Why all the fuss and what’s the business angle?

Sometimes, amid all the jargon, the business reasons for Cloud can get lost in the mix and even the smartest IT leaders can fail to explain the big picture. That is, that Cloud technology is far more cost-effective, fast-moving, and relatable to the needs of the organisation than the old on-premises, datacentre-bound, legacy world.

We began our survey by asking our panel about their primary business driver for moving to the cloud and the biggest response by far, with 45% of votes, was agility and the chance to be innovative. Whether it’s special offers such as dynamic pricing promotions, an experimental new product line, branching out to fresh sales or new marketing channels or something else entirely, Cloud affords the chance to experiment without high costs or ancillary risks.

A related reason given by the panel was customer responsiveness (22%) and, in the age where customer experience and CRM are so front of mind, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Cloud provides the opportunity to create one-to-one customer experiences and customise on a mass scale…and all at speed and at a reasonable price.

But there are defensive reasons for strategic cloud investments too, and cybersecurity is a notable advantage. This is a modern change: once, Cloud was seen as a risk factor because IT departments could no longer hold all the cards when it came to maintaining cyber defences. But today, Cloud’s inherent security models and the abilities of cloud data centre operators to run highly efficient Security Operations are viewed as a big competitive differentiation factor over the on-premises world of perimeter defences.

Finally, 12% of respondents said Cloud-based solutions would let them get ahead of competitors. However, with Cloud becoming a default for so many, that window of opportunity is shrinking fast.

Don’t leave me this way

We returned to the notion of competitive advantage in our second question, asking whether respondents felt they risked being left behind if they didn’t invest in Cloud.

More than half of respondents (56%) did feel that fear, saying they worried about losing out on innovation. And, while about a quarter (26%) felt confident in being ahead of the curve, the remaining 18% only felt they were moving at the same pace as competitors. Modern business history tells us starkly that the race for innovation is usually won by the swift, so the message is clear: early adopters trump fast followers… and you certainly don’t want to be a laggard.

Cloud: What’s not to like?

For our third and final question, we asked respondents to name the leading business performance benefit derived from Cloud technologies. Here, the answers were a potent mixture of the pragmatic and the innovative.

One prosaic advantage from Cloud is reducing upfront costs with servers, storage, software licences and even data centres no longer needed to the same extent, or even at all. Also, there are large cuts to be made in administrative tasks, floor space and power consumption. In all, over half the audience (53%) said reduced infrastructure costs added up to the number-one business performance advantage of Cloud.

Another advantage, as we have already stated, is also all about bolstering whatever the business wants to do (and of course providing the platform to help make those smart decisions). Quick access to innovation was cited by 26% of our panel and our other results also had an innovative slant. More than one in 10 (11%) nominated more collaborative teams and of course, Cloud showed its end-to-end joined-up mettle in the pandemic when we were forced into remote virtual teamworking. A side-effect: faster decision-making was voted for by 9% of respondents.

So, there we have it, and perhaps the best question that all CIOs should ask of their business-minded executives is this: what possible reason can you give for not wanting to move to Cloud?

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Johan is responsible for all Unit4 Go-to-Market activity globally, including overseeing the company's partner organisation. He joins Unit4 from software and consultancy company, Blue Yonder, where he served as President of the EMEA region. In this role, he was responsible for driving software and professional services revenue and aligning the company's regional go-to-market approach with global strategy.

Johan has more than 20 years' experience in consulting, pre-sales, sales management, and general management, beginning his career as an IT and Management consultant for Accenture, where he focused on large scale retail IT transformations and IT outsourcing. He then moved into sales and solution advisory for Oracle and was responsible for building and launching Oracle Retail in the Nordic region. Johan holds a Bachelor's degree in Informatics, as well as a Master's in Business and Information Technology.

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