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By Keith Tilley, Executive Vice President for Global Sales and Customer Services, Sungard Availability Services
The role of cloud computing in a modern business strategy is at times both overestimated and underappreciated. Undoubtedly, the cloud is a game-changer but to believe that it could provide everything a business needs is a narrow and frankly naïve view.
For decades now IT has been a crucial part of running a business, from the initial mainframe, allowing organisations to innovate the way they create and deliver their products or services to customers. It has made them faster and more efficient but business models were undoubtedly constrained by the IT available. IT could be slow, promising more than it could deliver and gaining a reputation as an expensive, though necessary, cost centre.
Cloud computing can reverse this, making businesses more nimble and more available by allowing them to increase their IT capacity whenever they need it, at minimal cost, in just a few clicks.
Something of a nebulous concept, the cloud is involved in everything we do – whether it’s answering emails, listening to music through to sharing documents. IT has never been more accessible, much to the concern of the IT department thanks to a rise in so-called Shadow IT (IT purchases without the CIO’s knowledge through other departmental budgets) as employees take advantage of cloud services, to boost their personal and departmental productivity – but with possible risks to data security and availability planning. HR, Finance, and Marketing – everyone is at it.
Unsurprisingly, with everyone trying to get into the cloud some end up with Cloud Hangovers. Our research found that not only is each UK organisation paying an average of £200k per year to ensure cloud services run effectively, but also an additional £270k over the last five years of unforeseen costs, such as people to manage deployment and systems integration.
But hangover or not, businesses simply can’t escape the draw of the cloud’s potential, with numerous overzealous industry figures calling for “cloud-only/ digital-first” approaches or chastising UK organisations for falling behind their US counterparts.
It’s worth a reminder that many supporters are somewhat removed from the coalface and perhaps lack a full understanding of the practicality of using IT in business. After all, most businesses weren’t born yesterday – they have existing working practices and legacy systems (previous IT investments) that can be complex, necessary and operate across multiple platforms to keep everything running.
Despite connotations of being outdated, legacy technology often carries out some of the most crucial functions. Businesses can’t afford to rip and replace the backbone of their IT when a new model or approach appears. In order to be viable cloud computing needs to work with existing technology, just another tool in the CIO’s toolbox.
Reaching Cloud Nirvana has little to do with the cloud – it’s about using the technology to deliver specific business objectives. Businesses need a Hybrid IT approach, mixing and matching technologies to achieve the right outcomes. Ask your business: what are we really trying to do? Can the cloud replace – or augment – current IT to deliver this?
Forget the technical specifications, today’s IT is about enabling businesses to increase their bottom-line by reacting quicker to market changes, staying ahead of the competition and offering the right services to customers in an all-time world.
This article first appeared in The Sunday Telegraph on July 12th.
 Interviews were carried out in February 2015 by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Sungard Availability Services. 400 interviews were conducted across the UK, France, Sweden and Ireland. The research spoke to IT decision makers in businesses of over 500 employees in the UK, France and Sweden and 250 in Ireland across a variety of sectors.