Cloud services could not only help businesses lower IT costs, but also increase innovation a recent study suggests --- yet another reason for businesses to make the move. Over the last few years, cloud computing has become one of the most widely used technological innovations for businesses and tech-enthusiasts alike. And why not? Cloud services give users access to their information anywhere and everywhere they happen to be, lowering costs and increasing productivity for many of the more tech-savvy companies today. However, the study suggests that lower costs aren’t the sole highlight of what cloud computing can do for you: it could also increase your innovation.
The study, conducted at the London School of Economics and Political Science, consists of survey data from 1,035 businesses and IT executives and in-depth interviews with more than 35 service providers. The researchers found that the cloud services could be so tailor-fit to a company’s needs that employees once bogged down with old processes were now free to think more creatively. According to the study, “With a cloud model, companies can think about processes at a level that is more detailed and personalized to their individual needs, but the solution will not need to be customized in older, prohibitively expensive ways.”
Indeed, the process of experimentation used to cost a medium-sized business millions, but with cloud services is quick and low-risk. “One of the key ways that cloud computing supports operational and technological innovation is by moving an organization more briskly through the experimental or prototyping stages,” they elaborate. “With traditional IT models, a decision to prototype a new system generally involves the procurement and installation of expensive hardware, with the associated checks and delays that conventional purchasing requires. Cloud provisioning, on the other hand, can be implemented rapidly and at low cost.”
In other words, it allows you to move more quickly with your innovative ideas. Changing what used to equate to an entire IT infrastructure, to accommodate new ideas for your business (think delivery and project management, HR, accounting and e-commerce) was so risky that companies often held on to technology well past its prime. Old IT infrastructures have hidden costs for maintenance and lost efficiency.
While this study suggests just the possibility of increased innovation for businesses, another study, conducted by Microsoft, illustrates some of the positive results that companies are already seeing. According to the study, 53% of SMBs (small and mid-sized businesses) that had been utilizing Microsoft cloud services expect to grow sales in the next 12-18 months, and the number of companies with between 11 and 25 employees that use cloud services---such as Microsoft’s Office 365, Apple’s iCloud, and Google Apps--- will potentially double in the next three years from 41% to 82%.
It’s careful to remember that cloud services don’t equate to instantaneous ingenuity. Indeed, the transition to cloud services can make for a difficult organizational shift and requires investment in both time and money. “Organizational readiness will be key—,” reads the London School of Economics and Political Science study. “That is, the ability of the corporate culture and leadership to recognize innovation-based opportunity and move quickly—as will implementation abilities.”
The cloud is a bit of a nebulous concept (no pun intended). While the popularity of the term “cloud” has certainly grown just recently, the basic concepts aren’t nearly as innovative and scary as many business leaders may think. Certainly we’ve all been using cloud-based email (Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) for years now without much trouble. Some of us can remember that awkward time before embracing cloud-based email. Messages downloaded on one machine could only be read there. Email accounts were, for all intents and purposes, linked forever to a single desktop computer.
Now imagine the upshift in efficiency that we all see reading out work emails on our phones, again on our iPads, and again back at the desktop; syncing address books and calendars. As we move the rest of our business lives onto this platform, we can expect to become more innovative. And as we innovate we can expect to see our business grow.