The working environment is evolving at an ever rapid pace. Consumers and business customers increasingly expect real time service; at the best value for money. Businesses are constantly under pressure from a variety of sources and the role of IT is having an increasingly significant impact on business success. Technology offers more choice, more competition, more loyalty, more risks, threats from new market entrants, the re-writing of well established markets and more opportunities. As Cloud Computing has evolved, can embracing it help improve productivity?
Technology’s impact on productivity?
For most organisations, IT, telecoms and support services (including security and access controls) have gained in significance over the years and represent a larger portion of spend, resources, issues and debates.
Technology has been designed to make life easier and for users to be more productive. Sounds great in principle, but in practise IT in most organisations is much more complex and restrictive than desired, impacting directly on productivity. Many users have experienced the stress and frustration of IT not delivering when it matters. The reality is users now see IT and an essential utility and in the same way they see electricity, gas and water; they expect it to be always available and of very high quality.
Many businesses build IT around specific requirements or applications in silo. Hardware and software was added when it was needed and every element was seen internally as an ‘IT project’ with an associated budget and deliverable. So over the years with more devices, applications and services to manage, the IT department became overloaded with the mister they had created. The impact of this meant that users were prescribed technology and a company approved way of working.
The number of IT issues increased with complexity, the man hours supporting systems increased too, the working environment became a challenge for those in IT and for their ‘customers’. Essentially businesses questioned the ROI they were getting from IT.
The shining light of Cloud Computing and Software as a Service
Organisations wanted an effective gain in terms of time, money and quality, three important measures of value and in productivity. Take email as a basic example; are organisations better off buying a server, an enterprise email solution, deploying, managing and running it internally across multiple sites? Or is it more cost effective, less hassle and better quality (fewer outages or problems) to pay per user per month for an email service? What about other applications in the business? From accounts and sales, to production, distribution and support. What about the actual infrastructure itself?
Service providers and OEM’s are now able to offer Software as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service to businesses, essentially organisations can subscribe to technology elements / services ‘off-the-shelf’. The added advantages of doing this are fairly simple, by changing the focus from running and managing technology internally to unlocking its potential value, has a couple of major advantages;
- It allows an organisation to focus on whats important, the core aspect of the business and its customers
- More time and money to invest in the things that are important
Additionally Cloud Computing allowed organisation IT teams to have an more agile and flexible infrastructure. IT environments had generally been built to handle average peak usage, which meat it had to be able to handle the average highest volumes (but couldn’t handle more) and was oversized for other periods. Cloud Computing has offered organisations the option to ‘auto-scale’, essentially meaning that should an organisation run low on storage or reach a specific threshold on processing power, they can rent more, more the cloud on a per hour basis.
Who’s for and against change?
Generally commercially focused business owners, Directors, Managers and Board members are for these changes, due to the lower risk, financial improvement, increased productivity and agility. Those who are against are generally those running the IT services and teams, mainly because such changes are seen as a threat. The reality is that by freeing up time and resources within the IT function, they can focus on important areas that they previously haven’t been able to address. User knowledge is the number 1 reason for a 1st line help desk support calls, yet how many adoption or user training is given? Answer if usually none, very little or, once during company indiction. When did anyone in IT look at who uses which applications and did an consolidation exercise?
The reality is these two small points are not going to rest the minds of those IT staff who are not onboard with Cloud Computing and actually they might not be the right things to focus on to achieve cost saving or further improvements. For businesses who do move elements to the Cloud, it needs to be seen as an operational and culture change as much as a technological choice.