IT leaders who are taking their organisations into the cloud are achieving some notable successes and paybacks on their investments, according to a recent report.
A Computing Research survey of 150 senior IT professionals in medium to large enterprises found that they are predominantly shifting functions such as Business Intelligence, Human Capital Management (HCM), Customer Experience systems, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Payments, Payroll, and Accounting into the cloud.
So what were the main drivers behind these decisions, which involve both back-office and customer-facing applications as IT leaders play both roles in support of business aims?
The on-stream availability of new product features and technical capabilities was identified as either a major or significant motivation for moving to the cloud by over 81 percent of respondents.
Scalability to meet the peaks - and occasional troughs - of demand was cited by nearly 80 percent of respondents; greater agility and competitive advantage by 74 percent; cost reduction by 73 percent; an improved working environment by 70 percent; cost predictability by 68 percent; and the performance and proximity of applications by 67 percent.
This suggests that organisations are predominantly seizing cloud's ability to offer improved agility on demand in support of the business, rather than simply trying to reduce or control their internal costs.
Also listed as important were factors such as the on-stream availability of new artificial intelligence (AI) and automation capabilities, cited by 64 percent of IT leaders. In this way, enterprises can extend their ability to slice and dice data to explore trends and operational insights without making large on-premise investments in the necessary hardware and applications.
Expectation vs reality
Asked how successfully these motivations have been turned into business results, 79 percent said that scalability has been achieved either "extremely successfully" or "very successfully".
Nearly 75 percent said that cost predictability is greater against these two measures; 73 percent that agility and competitive advantage have been realised very well; 67 percent that performance has improved; and 63 percent that costs have been reduced. Overall, that's an excellent match between ambition and results.
Among other wins for the organisation, 69 percent said that the working environment has been improved either extremely or very successfully, and 63 percent that AI and automation capabilities are now significantly greater.
A security plus or minus?
But while shifting functions to the cloud can produce such measurable benefits, many users remain concerned about risks to data security (42 percent, with 38 percent of respondents believing their fears were justified).
However, rather more see the cloud as promising improved data security: a total of nearly 70 percent described better security as either a major or significant motivation for moving functions into the cloud.
Sixty-four percent of IT leaders said that data security has been improved since the move, either extremely successfully or very successfully, with a further 25 percent acknowledging some improvement. These figures counter the prevailing narrative that IT leaders are concerned about the security levels of cloud-based services.
More evidence of executive support for the cloud was provided by the 60 percent of IT professionals who said that extending the business relationship with their cloud provider has been achieved either extremely or very successfully.
In many industries, regulatory compliance is a growing burden, with regulations such as Europe's GDPR and the UK's Data Protection Act carrying significant cost penalties if senior responsible owners of corporate data fail in their responsibilities. According to the Computing Research survey, over 70 percent of IT leaders said that compliance had been achieved either extremely or very successfully in the cloud.
Asked on a scale of 1 to 5 (with ‘1' being ‘strongly disagree' and ‘5' being ‘strongly agree') to what extent respondents agreed with the statement, "The advantages of migrating financial and HCM applications to the cloud outweigh the perceived disadvantages", over 47 percent chose ‘4' and nearly 30 percent chose ‘5'. Less than seven percent selected ‘2' and no one chose ‘1', meaning that well over three-quarters of IT leaders strongly believe in the advantages of cloud platforms.
Over 83 percent of respondents said that security was either very important or important to financial and HCM applications in the cloud, but even more cited reliability (87 percent).
Also rated as important or very important for financial and HCM deployments were the applications being always up to date (79 percent); cost (77 percent); user experience (75 percent); availability of a single data set (over 72 percent); automation of tasks (72 percent); business insights (over 71 percent); customer service and support levels (71 percent); and feature comprehensiveness (69 percent).
About the research: respondents came from most major sectors of the UK economy, with a particular concentration in areas such as business services, property, law, accountancy, technology, manufacturing, engineering, and the pharmaceutical sector.