Understanding the three key ways cloud can drive competitive advantage

Understanding the three key ways cloud can drive competitive advantage
Sebastian leads IBM’s strategic growth initiative and cloud computing organisation in Europe. He directs a team of sales, services, channel, technical and marketing professionals across Europe to deliver value to thousands of clients through IBM’s cloud offerings and integrated solutions. Sebastian is also a member of IBM’s Growth and Transformation Team which consists of IBM's top 300 senior executives, designed to lead growth and transformation efforts across the entire company. Sebastian has held various senior leadership roles in IBM. Most recently, he served as Vice President, Global Storage Sales, in IBM’s Systems Group, based in New York (USA). In this role, he successfully transformed and led IBM’s world-wide storage sales organisation. Prior to that, Sebastian was Vice President, Software Group, Northeast Europe, based in IBM’s Zurich (Switzerland) office. He was responsible for all sales, marketing and the technical professionals supporting IBM’s software portfolio across the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Past assignments include Vice President, Software Group, Germany, and Director of Sales Operations for Software Group in Europe, Middle East, Africa out of IBM's office in Paris (France). Sebastian started his career as a student trainee at IBM in 1991 and earned a degree in Business Economics and Information Technology from the Technische Fachhochschule in Berlin (Germany). He also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the Henley Management College in London (United Kingdom).

(c)iStock.com/Leslie Achtymichuk

The fact of the matter is thus: if you want to stay ahead of the pack, you’ll need to get your head into and around the cloud. However, the reasons and rationale behind cloud migration are very different to that which greeted CTOs in the mid-2000s, and it is this shift that businesses and their staff need to be aware of today.

According to IDC: “more than 70% of western Europe enterprise IT organisations will commit to hybrid cloud architectures by 2017, vastly driving the rate and pace of change in IT.” And just this week, a new IBM Study, ‘Tailoring hybrid cloud: designing the right mix for innovation, efficiency and growth’, documented the meteoric rise of hybrid cloud. In responses from over 1000 C-suite executives from 18 industries, 78% of them now say their cloud initiatives are coordinated or fully integrated, compared to just 34% in 2012.

Executives expect hybrid cloud adoption (in particular) to support their organisation’s growth in three main ways: by facilitating innovation, lowering total cost of ownership and by enhancing operational efficiencies and enabling them to more readily meet customer expectations.

Cloud has evolved and attitudes towards it have matured from a ‘nice to have’ technological innovation in the mid-2000s, to an integral part of business enablement strategy today.  Successful organisations understand that technologies like cloud and (moving towards the future), cognitive computing are key to improving operations, customer experiences and, crucially, bottom lines. 

But even with the rising use and acceptance of cloud technologies overall, almost half of computing workloads – 45% – are expected to remain in on premise data centres for the foreseeable future. Given this, it is imperative that companies determine and regularly re-assess which mix of traditional IT, public and private cloud best suits their needs.

Until relatively recently, cloud was viewed by many as (primarily) a cost reducing project. However, today, the realisation of what cloud can actually proactively provide has led to a more rounded and balanced overview of it as a platform for innovation and competitive advantage too. 

But once every business is in the cloud (as will be the case in due course if adoption rates are to be believed), just who will win and how is the key question many are keen to understand.

Based on its findings, the most recent study recommends three areas, all current and future adopters of the technology need to understand, if they are to drive sustainable and competitive advantage through cloud adoption:

Deepen your understanding of business implications and financial cases of cloud

A custom-made environment will be possible when employees truly understand business needs and how IT technologies can help deliver these successes.  This includes identifying key business stakeholders of cloud initiatives, selecting target improvement areas, and establishing a current performance baseline for comparison.

Strengthen your ability to manage the complexity of multiple cloud ecosystem partners

Ecosystems by design will be in continual flux as companies collaborate with value chain participants. Success will depend on fostering the next generation of business and IT hybrid talent, embracing the full cloud ecosystem as a community in which participants can deliver more value as a group than acting alone.

In establishing collaborative, long term relationships with partners through mutually beneficial opportunities, companies will be able to tap into the API economy and other ‘open’ technologies that allow them to build on top of existing innovation.

Extend the limits of compliance with security and regulation through new internal capabilities and external solutions

This requires a re-work of operations to build data protection and security measures into system and IT infrastructure by design, rather than retrofitting. It’s also imperative that you select vendors with security and compliance expertise in the cloud space. 

Hybrid cloud represents a pivotal transformation for businesses. But managing a dynamic and symbiotic cloud environment will require both a new mind-set to traditional approaches, but also new skills to deliver upon these. 

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