David McLeman, managing director of Ancoris, Google's leading UK partner, argues the real benefit of migrating to the cloud is the innovative transformation of business operations as a whole.
There are two sides to cloud computing. From a technical point of view, it changes the way IT is provisioned. From a business point of view, it changes the way users work. Much has been made of the technical changes, highlighting cost savings, scalability and agility. However, if you talk to early adopters, it's clear that the real value for them has come from the business innovation and transformation enabled by new cloud collaboration applications.
According to Tom Austin, VP at Gartner Group, cloud email and collaboration services (CECS) have reached a "tipping point" based on projected enterprise adoption by 2014. He states "ultimately, we expect CECS to become the dominant provisioning model for the next generation of communication and collaboration technologies used in enterprises". Gartner's position is a strong boost for cloud providers such as Google but it is interesting to see collaboration being marked out as a new standard alongside email.
As we have helped companies move to the cloud many have been surprised by the ease of the technical migration process and how quickly the users have adopted new ways of working. The real challenge for IT departments has been changing the mindset of the business as a whole and educating business executives about the strategic business benefits and opportunities presented by enabling a collaborative culture.
We are starting to see a trend, even in conservative organisation not actively considering cloud adoption, of the viral use of the free versions of Google Docs for group workspaces and collaboration. This suggests that the personal productivity tools of old are no longer meeting the needs of teams in our increasingly tech savvy workforce. Is this a problem for IT or is it an opportunity to demonstrate business value?
Real-Time Collaboration within the Enterprise
According to a report by the Future Foundation, there is an 81% correlation between innovation and collaboration, and employees who are given the opportunity to collaborate at work are more than twice as likely to contribute new ideas to their company.
Cloud collaboration applications, such as Google Apps for Business which enables real-time collaboration in multiple different ways (email, shared docs, video, chat etc..), provide tools to support efficiently as a team working, which can directly support business innovation.
The Imagination Group is an independent global brand communication agency with core staff of around 450 out of 14 fixed locations around the world. Imagination moved to Google Apps to improve collaboration between staff in different locations. "For a visual company, the ability for up to twenty people to be able to view and all sketch on the same online whiteboard is very exciting."
Mobile Working Access from Anywhere
The consumerisation of IT, the emergence of tablets, smartphones and the ubiquitous availability of mobile broadband are providing IT with the challenge of providing employees with the resources to work at any time, from any location and from any device. Get it right and this flexibility results in a happier, more productive workforce. Cloud applications are a key part of this solution to eliminate on-site working restrictions and enable access from anywhere, at anytime from any device, even for the mid-size business.
IT Staff and Strategic Projects
With cloud computing, there is a clear opportunity for IT departments to fundamentally change their approach of delivering services. This includes a significant or total reduction in the number of operational tasks, such as server provisioning, patch management and capacity planning. By focusing on larger, more strategic projects rather than smaller time consuming tasks, the IT team becomes expert at exploiting technology to create business value.
Implementing Google Apps has helped the Imagination Group deliver on their objective of achieving maximum value for the business. Imagination estimates that using Google Apps compared to continuing to provide systems in house will save around 325,000 over the next three years, by cutting spend on hardware, software, and consultancy from around 540,000 to just 125,000. "The cost story for the move to Google Apps has been compelling for us, even though it's not been the main driver."
As the technical and financial benefits of moving to the cloud become better understood, the main barrier of migration is to change the mindset of those business executives with traditional views on business productivity. The true value of cloud email and collaboration applications comes from transforming the way organisations use technology to innovate. It is this message that heads of IT have to communicate to their business counterparts. The real benefits of the cloud will be realised by transforming not only the delivery of IT services but the corporate culture.