The adoption of cloud technologies by business has increased dramatically in the last couple of years: a 2017 RightScale study found that 85% of enterprises are using a hybrid cloud strategy. Few businesses are operating solely in the cloud yet, as organisations blend public and private cloud services with more traditional on-premise solutions.

This is likely to change over the coming years as over half of businesses (63%) intend to move their entire IT estate to the cloud in the future (CIF). But there are significant barriers preventing businesses from implementing more cloud solutions.

The shift towards the cloud is widely regarded as a key element of digital transformation: the realignment or investment in new technologies that will improve a business’ customer experience and revolutionise the way it works. Digital transformation is more than just a buzzword; 4 out of the 10 current market leaders will be displaced by innovative and agile new businesses that focus on digital transformation, according to the Global Centre for Digital Business Transformation.

For many, the move to the cloud is a natural first step on this journey. However, a recent Oracle study conducted with business leaders and IT decision-makers indicated they are facing several challenges when it comes to implementing cloud services. A key finding was that many organisations fail to align business goals with IT projects; 62% of respondents said this affected their ability to implement the cloud and other innovative technologies.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Transformational technology needs to be seen as an investment” hashtags=”Technology, Cloud “]

In order to make use of cloud technology, and indeed wider digital transformational technology, a business’ IT department must be repositioned. Rather than a necessary ‘break-fix’ solution as it once was, IT is now a strategic resource for businesses and should be the department driving digital innovation. Transformational technology needs to be seen as an investment, and one that can deliver a significant ROI, rather than merely a cost. For this to work the traditional IT Manager/Director roles will need to transform into that of the redefined CIO. This role will take in a wider business responsibility and understanding rather than simply keeping the lights on. Innovation and digital transformation will be expected of this role.

IT departments often face resistance not only from business leaders but from wider business teams. Legacy systems and resistance from the teams that use them – largely HR and Finance departments, according to Oracle – present another barrier to integrating cloud services. While integrated cloud services would be an obvious solution, it’s not that easy for IT: 41% cited a lack of understanding around the need for cloud integration from departments outside of IT.

So how can you help the departments stuck on legacy systems to understand the many benefits of the cloud?

First and foremost, IT departments should have sole responsibility for all technology implementations in a business. Respondents cited managing shadow IT as a difficulty, whereby departments outside of IT purchase and implement systems and applications without the permission, and often knowledge, of IT. This leads to the aforementioned issue of departments on legacy systems. Even if those systems are more forward-thinking, the integration of other applications isn’t often taken into consideration like it would be if IT headed the project. By taking control of a business’ entire technology stack, IT can implement a solid technology strategy that encompasses all of the tools and systems necessary for the business. IT can then ensure the business has a base upon which to build innovative technologies – that often comes in the form of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

Next, you should be able to demonstrate the benefits of the cloud. An immediate ROI can often be seen in reducing the number of servers your business requires, which in turn reduces the office space needed to store them. Take Office 365 for example. Some businesses that have upgraded to Office 365 from an older Exchange deployment have done so to move their emails from on-premise servers to the cloud. Not only does this increase rack space or free of virtual machine resource, but it solves the issue of bloated mailboxes which can pose storage and backup issues and ultimately make systems sluggish.

Office 365 is the perfect example of a hybrid solution. All of your applications are stored in the cloud but the traditional Office suite, including Word, PowerPoint and Excel, can still be downloaded and used natively on an employee’s machine (depending on the plan selected). This offers the flexibility of the cloud, as workers can access their email, files and applications anytime and anywhere. Office 365 also means all employees will be on the same version of the Office suite, removing the headache of incompatible versions.

There are significant benefits to using cloud-hosted Office 365, and that’s before you even get to its innovative tools that come at no extra cost. The cloud is lauded for its ability to improve communication and collaboration between colleagues – a key benefit recognised by respondents of the Oracle survey. Office 365 takes this to the next level with the recently-launched Teams, a collaborative workspace that allows employees to engage in discussions, share and edit files and set up automated workflows in one centralised hub.

[easy-tweet tweet=”A Microsoft study found that using the cloud offered increased employee productivity.” hashtags=”Cloud, Microsoft”]

Many business leaders are concerned about the extra costs associated with the cloud. The cloud needn’t be a costly investment, however – per-user-per-month subscriptions, offered by Microsoft for Office 365 and its recently upcoming cloud-hosted ERP and CRM app Dynamics 365, drive down costs and offer flexibility for growing businesses. Further, a Microsoft study with business leaders found that using the cloud offered increased employee productivity and significant cost savings.

Your business might have already made moves towards the cloud – in fact, it’s very likely it has. It’s also very likely that you’re facing resistance from your wider organisation when it comes to implementing more cloud services. Attitudes towards IT departments need to change in order for cloud services, and wider digital transformation, to be taken seriously. Ultimately, these attitudes probably won’t change unless there is hard evidence of its benefits. Office 365 might be part of your cloud solutions, or it might not yet be. With a potential ROI of 154% and initial investments paid back in 6 months, what better way to demonstrate the advantages of the cloud than through this innovative, reliable platform?