Business and IT leaders recognize that cloud adoption has a significant positive impact across a range of business activities, particularly on productivity, innovation, and process efficiency. In fact a majority of companies expect a high or significant level of improvement in a number of areas. For example: The ability to use a cloud platform for collaboration makes it far simpler to create a central data repository that is easily synced with various devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones that are carried into the field and out to client sites. Ultimately, this allows real-time data to stream across the organization in a point-to-point way. It transforms static and linear processes into a dynamic model.
A procurement cloud, like Ariba, will help you stay flexible where it really counts while ensuring control and compliance between your vendors, contracts, regulations, buyers, and finance organizations. You can scale your resources to dynamically manage suppliers, processes, budgets, approvals, and payments on a global basis. Languages, ERP systems, and business locations are no longer concerns since all you need is a computer connection. And, the processes are secure—currently used by some of the world’s largest and most security-conscious companies and government agencies.
Another example, marketing cloud allows organizations to plug in data on the fly and measure things such as trending sentiment or how a particular message or pitch influences customer behavior. As organizations attempt to wrap their arms around massive amounts of structured and unstructured data—including audio, video, and social media streams—the ability to understand behavior and spot opportunities is paramount. Big data and analytics are particularly valuable in customer service, where it is critical to evaluate how customers use systems, which channels are most effective, and how an organization can allocate internal resources most effectively.
Finally, a human resource cloud, like Success Factors, allows for companies to manage employee on-boarding, succession planning, and other Human resource functions.
Putting cloud platforms to work
Clouds can only be transformative if they are created and used in the right way. Meeting the challenges of a globalized digital business environment requires sound strategy, engagement in ongoing planning, and discussions across multiple business units. There is also a need to focus on transforming underlying workflows and processes—all while keeping systems and data secure.
The payoffs can be significant. Fast-track development, for example, can eliminate the inefficiencies associated with linear work processes (tasks performed one at a time in sequence, rather than concurrently) and asynchronous communication (messages that do not depend on simultaneous participation by all parties, such as email). The idea is to create to a real-time data environment with no latency or delays. A well-designed cloud platform can deliver updates and new features more quickly and in a more targeted manner than older alternatives. As consumers and employees become accustomed to mobile devices and apps—and as the underlying technology framework matures—there is a growing expectation that organizations will update apps regularly.
Cloud platforms allow organizations—particularly those operating in information-intensive fields such foodservice—to combine data in faster and more seamless ways to meet real-time market needs. And there is great potential for further development. For example, as the “internet of things” takes hold and data streams in from RFID tags, machines with embedded sensors, smartphones, and other devices, the need for rapid development cycles, real-time analytics, and dynamic decision-making will only expand further.
Building a best-practice approach
Cloud computing can present a variety of obstacles and challenges. Security is their top-of-mind concern. Other key issues include regulatory compliance and migration of data, along with avoiding silos and redundant data. Users can address these challenges by focusing on several key issues:
Developing a strong governance framework. It is essential to build robust rules and controls to reduce risks and build effective workflows. A standardized approach to technology translates into more efficient and cost-effective buying decisions.
Building consistent IT and data security. Because cloud platforms often route data across multiple locations or organizations, it is critical to include strong security controls into systems and across technologies. This may include firewalls, VPNs, mobile device management services, mobile application management tools, file encryption, IP protection tools, and endpoint security. It is crucial to check with vendors and understand what protections they provide in order to effectively leverage their established security services.