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Staying Ahead of the Cloud Curve


The last few years have seen cloud computing gain tremendous attention in mainstream business media, with the trend accelerating in 2010. The Wall Street Journal, CIO Magazine, Barron’s, local newspapers, and just about every news outlet in the nation are covering the cloud trend. It’s inevitable that your CFO or CEO has heard the buzz associated with the term and most likely correlates the cloud with simplification and cost savings. Many organizations are still trying to determine what the cloud means to their business, assess what level of cloud adoption they are willing to embrace, and clarify the cloud’s tangible benefits and risks. CFOs and CEOs want to know what their industry is doing with the cloud and, more specifically, how their company can stay ahead of the competition.

IT veterans have seen the industry evolve from the mainframe model to the client/server model to the ASP/hosted model. As the next evolution goes beyond ASP/hosting and into the cloud, IT professionals are discussing a variety of questions. Are cloud computing and outsourcing models making internal IT obsolete? Is the IT department losing its influence in the overall business plan? Or is the role of IT simply transforming into something new?

International Data Corp. (IDC) expects spending on cloud services to reach $42 billion by 2012 and account for some 9 percent of total software sales. More importantly, it expects spending on cloud computing to accelerate throughout the forecast period, capturing 25 percent of IT spending growth in 2012 and nearly a third of growth the following year.

Given all these changes, CIOs, who are under constant pressure to show true business value, are now facing the daunting task of leveraging the benefits of cloud solutions. Since there is no standard framework that fits all enterprises and their respective verticals, CIOs need to determine how best to implement these solutions -- before their CFO or CEO starts asking “what are we doing about the cloud?”

The most important steps in building your adoption plan are doing your homework, understanding the various vendors and different options, preparing a roadmap, and ultimately taking the lead on embracing cloud computing as an integral piece of your overall business strategy.

So what can you do to stay ahead of the curve? Three areas of focus will have the most immediate overall impact on your business processes:

  1. Marketing & Sales, Analytics, CRM –
    Using on-demand CRM systems like Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM allow your sales and marketing teams to work in a more collaborative, mobile environment. Marketing automation systems like Eloqua, Marketo, and Pardot provide real-time analytics and metrics to business leaders. These SaaS solutions are based on monthly subscriptions and require no upgrades, maintenance, and limited support services from internal IT.

  2. Operations and Systems –
    Finance and accounting automation vendors, such as Intacct, Netsuite, and Bill.com, provide on-demand systems that automate and streamline business processes.

  3. Infrastructure –
    Hosted e-mail, infrastructure and SPAM/anti-virus are all available on-demand and reduce the time required from internal IT. Since the facilities are off-site, IT is no longer taxed with performing costly upgrades or spending hours troubleshooting issues in the server room.

By implementing cloud solutions in these three areas, internal IT will be able focus on strategies that add greater value to the business. CIOs able to translate how cloud computing can improve business performance can further position themselves as ‘true’ business leaders. In addition, staying on top of emerging cloud computing trends increases the CIO’s value and helps ensure you don’t lose control of IT because you weren’t keeping current with new trends. To show real business value, CIOs should demonstrate how cloud computing can positively impact their companies.

If you’d like to learn more about cloud computing, contact Bill Kracunas at 617.241.1331.