The cloud is now well and truly ingrained into the everyday life of the enterprise. Security fears, concerns over control and service level agreements are gradually becoming a thing of the past, enabling CIOs to focus on leveraging the technology. In fact, a study of 1,656 CIOs by IBM has found that two-thirds of them are now exploring better ways to collaborate via the cloud and social networking tools, in order to better develop and deliver on their customers’ requirements.

As cloud computing moves responsibility for IT maintenance, support and updates into the hands of the cloud supplier, much of the ‘traditional’ work and budget of the IT department has shifted. Now that “keeping the lights on” is no longer their primary concern, IT leaders and departments can shift their focus elsewhere. The consumerisation of IT and user frustrations with complex, legacy systems, driving workers to buy tools and applications that “just work” may also make IT professionals feel as though they are being edged out of yet more mission-critical technology decisions.

[easy-tweet tweet=”The cloud actually presents IT leaders with the ideal opportunity to move away from just being seen as the on-call helpdesk” via=”no” usehashtags=”no”]

However, the cloud actually presents IT leaders with the ideal opportunity to move away from just being seen as the on-call helpdesk and soundboard for businesses’ technology woes. They can now position themselves as strategists and innovators. For years, if the email system goes down, someone needed access to the latest software, or their laptop or mobile device to access the VPN, they would call IT. With the cloud, a lot of the tactical helpdesk support issues are no longer the IT department’s headache. This creates the opportunity for IT to evolve from its role as a technical support function.

Freed from the shackles of mundane tasks, CIOs now have the opportunity to step back and think more like a CEO. By focusing on the business, CIOs can start to examine where they can drive revenue and reduce costs. How can current technologies be optimised to benefit the organisation? What technologies can de deployed to help the business meet its objectives and drive growth? What technology is going to give the business a competitive advantage? What products can the company build to boost sales? These are the kind of questions that IT leaders can begin to ask – and answer – in order to truly add value to the company’s bottom line.

Big data is another area where IT leaders have the opportunity to shine

Big data is another area where IT leaders have the opportunity to shine. Organisations are generating such vast quantities of data they are unable to manage it effectively, requiring additional tools to capture, manage, analyse and process information. According to the IDC “Digital Universe Study,” sponsored by EMC, the Digital Universe is growing 40% a year into the next decade, and by 2020 the digital universe will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes. This wealth of data impacts an entire organisation and CIOs now have the opportunity – and the power – to unleash a new wave of opportunities for businesses and people around the world.

[easy-tweet tweet=”The Digital Universe is growing 40% a year into the next decade” user=”huddle and @comparethecloud” usehashtags=”no”]

But where should CIOs turn their attention first? There are many options, but ‘collaboration’ is the critical component of contemporary, effective global working practice – both within and without organisational boundaries. Forrester estimates that 86% of knowledge workers regularly collaborate with external partners. Huddle’s own research with Dods suggests that this number rises to 95% in the UK public sector. This leads to enterprises drowning in content and employees feeling overwhelmed and confused. IT departments need to use their new role in the organisation to deploy collaboration technologies that can dramatically improve the efficiency of the workforce.

With a multitude of devices now penetrating the workplace, CIOs also have the opportunity to establish effective mobile device strategies. It’s now not only graduates and the younger members of the workforce that are bringing their smartphones and tablets into the office environment – CEOs and the senior management team are more than likely to pull out their tablet of choice in a meeting. Employees nowadays want to be able to access information at all times. So it is important that IT departments understand the apps that teams are using on their devices and not just the devices themselves.

The cloud has transformed the role of IT departments. It has opened the opportunity to elevate a technical support function to something that can add serious value to the bottom line of organisations and help them navigate a changing, turbulent future. CIOs just need to embrace the opportunity and select the right cloud platforms and capabilities that will support their vision for their organisation’s future.

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Alastair Mitchell, President, CMO and Co-Founder, Huddle

His third internet start-up, Alastair founded Huddle with Andy McLoughlin as he was frustrated by existing enterprise technology’s inability to help people work together. Spending millions of dollars on a SharePoint implementation, only to watch it fail dismally, was the final straw.

In contrast, collaboration apps in our social lives just worked. As a result, Huddle was born. Since setting up the company in 2006, Alastair has grown Huddle to around 170 people in London, San Francisco, New York, and Washington D.C., raised $86 million in funding and seen sales double year on year. In his roles of President and CMO, Alastair is focused on scaling Huddle’s global brand and market impact.

After his first startup, an online media business, Alastair moved into online exchanges and he built the first global soft commodities marketplace. When the business got bought-out by one of its investors, Alastair moved to Dunnhumby. Here he led its web-based marketing intelligence product from zero to $60 million sales within four years. He joined the board in 2005 to head up a 300 person global team, running their shopper loyalty practise. When Dunnhumby was purchased by Tesco, Alastair started Huddle.