Collaboration core to enterprise cloud success, says Harvard

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The key benefit of the use of enterprise cloud technologies is increased collaboration and agility, says a new report from Harvard Business Review Analytics Services.

“As cloud services have matured and adoption has increased, research has consistently shown that using cloud has enabled companies to act more quickly and to collaborate more easily,” notes the report, with Harvard’s own research finding that 72 per cent of respondents say their organisation’s use of cloud has made it easier to collaborate with colleagues.

Most cloud proponents agree that cloud’s value comes not from cost savings but from speed, adds the report, and organisations that cut the time between identifying a need for a new capability and delivering it are seeing a real advantage. Facilitating more fluid working relationships across traditionally separate entities – inside and outside the organisation – contributes to that speed. Increasingly, unified communications and cloud collaboration suites are part of that trend.

Researchers interviewed 452 business and technology professionals in mainly medium to large organisations worldwide. “[Cloud] allows business operations to more quickly share information and work cooperatively,” said one respondent. “Cloud has given the marketing department the ability to work more closely with engineering, sales, and the service department,” said another.

Agility is the second key benefit identified by Harvard researchers, with 71 per cent of respondents saying their use of cloud has increased business agility in a number of key areas. Forty per cent of respondents claim that using cloud has increased revenue, and 36 percent say it has increased profit margins.

One respondent said cloud has “decreased time to market when entering a new area or customer segment.” Another said, “The speed at which we exchange data between operations and clients has significantly increased. This has allowed for faster turnaround on decisions, fewer project delays, and increased cash flow.” A third said cloud lets them provide solutions to clients more quickly and effectively, even when those clients are spread out around the world.

No more early adopters

However, the report warns that the early adopter advantage has now disappeared, and today it is more a case that not adopting cloud is becoming a competitive disadvantage. “Achieving a competitive advantage is no longer a given as more organisations join the club. Advantage in the future will come from how well cloud is managed and to what extent companies can use it to decrease friction in all of their business activities.”

Organisations that want to stay a step ahead are developing a more strategic approach to cloud adoption, management, and use, says the report. “This manifests in various ways, with central IT either in control or providing guidance and support. Security is still a concern and the main inhibitor for those who are not yet using cloud, but that too is being addressed – both by better governance and security practices and by working with providers who make security a priority.”

Cloud usage in the enterprise continues to rise, with 84 percent saying their organisation’s use has increased in the past year. It has moved past the first wave of applications – such as salesforce automation, which was relatively easy to adopt. Today, cloud’s proven benefits are leading more organisations to use it for core business systems.

Security concerns remain the biggest inhibitor for those who have not adopted cloud, notes the report, but it adds, “however, most respondents with cloud experience say its impact on data security has either been neutral (34 per cent) or has actually increased it (39 per cent). Only 10 percent say their use of cloud has decreased data security levels.

Security may be one reason that lines of business are increasingly turning to the IT department instead of going it alone. Eighty per cent of respondents say that involving central IT increases the security and reliability of their cloud efforts, with 60 percent saying they strongly agree (rating it 8-10 on a 10-point scale).

About Author

Chris Middleton

Chris Middleton is a widely respected business and technology journalist, author, and magazine editor. In recent years he has been Editor of Computing (where he remains Consulting Editor); co-founder and Managing Editor of Professional Outsourcing – a magazine he developed from scratch and grew to be the leading magazine in its field; Editor of CBR in its most successful year; and co-founder and launch Editor of Sourcingfocus.com. Today, he is co-Director of EastwoodMiddleton Publishing, and founder, designer, and Editor in Chief of Strategist magazine (UK), the boardroom magazine that provides strategic insight for business leaders, and of its mobile-first digital edition at www.iamtheStrategist.com. He is also co-founding Editor of Child Internet Safety magazine, and a contributing Editor of Diginomica.com. Over the years Chris has also written for, among many others, The Guardian, The Times, the BBC, and Computer Weekly. He is the author of several successful books on digital media, and a commissioning editor of more than 50 books.