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Driving Innovation: How cloud is about effectiveness not cost-cutting

Cloud is not just about cutting costs, it should be used to drive IT innovation too.

As we move into 2013, cloud is becoming more established within business. But there has been a shift in how cloud computing is perceived: it’s no longer purely about reducing its running costs but it’s now about how companies can best exploit the technology to improve performance.

If you look at the challenges facing IT departments and the businesses they support, there needs to be a shift in the mindsets of the leaders within organisations to instilling innovation at the heart of how their business operates. IT is only going to get harder with the demands on it to do things faster and for less money ever increasing.

Technology is increasing its scope in almost every organisation and is becoming more complex by the day. It’s also not unusual for IT departments to be under-resourced because they are thought of as a necessary expense to run the business, rather than the engine for innovation and growth. This needs to, and must, change for a business to succeed in the new digital age.

Business demands on their IT infrastructures are growing by the day but, with limited resources, the result is a backlog of tasks that have to completed; but quite often they will continue not to deliver. Many organisations prevent their IT departments from helping the business change and move forward due to the lack of importance placed on it. For example, if a product development department needed a better collaboration platform to increase its effectiveness, would it go to its IT department or source its own? With some stats showing most IT departments spending as much as 80 percent of their resources just keeping the lights on, IT departments need to find a new way to do things.

IT in a medium-sized company might manage hundreds of applications and each one needs monitoring, patching, updating and maintaining: businesses need to embrace not only the physical attributes of cloud but also the very ethos that underpins cloud-based services. There’s an increasing trend for startups to opt for cloud-based services for their IT requirements. As these businesses grow and establish themselves in the next year or two, they will have the cloud ethos embedded within the organisation, giving levels of innovation and agility over established businesses that haven’t changed just won’t have.

So, if a business would like to put innovation at its heart, how will cloud help it to realise this? First of all, by using cloud-based services, an organisation will become more efficient, the man years of time lost to keeping the lights on will be released back into the business and can be used to develop new ways to support the businesses activities. They will have more time to improve the business response times to customers and its user base. Some of the freed-up time should be put aside for pure research, innovation and creativity. This is where the next great product or service is most likely to come from.

Secondly, with IT departments normally working with fewer resources than required and it becoming more difficult to find talent (in fact, this is probably harder than buying the systems that you want them to support) cloud’s ability to free up the most valuable team members will become critical to an organisation’s future success.

A good example of this would be what it takes to maintain a complex web application; this may require a database administrator, a security expert, a network administrator as well as a systems administrator. Finding, and then hiring, a team like this can take months and can require a large increase in the cost base of a IT department (and that is if you can find the right people), let alone the inefficiency that this model has in its time to market. Cloud has the ability to do this in a matter of days, at most weeks.

For me, the days of business trying to do everything in-house, with ever-decreasing pools of knowledge as technology grows at a eve- increasing pace, is over; people within a business, especially within IT, need to free themselves from the actual running of its infrastructure and become users of infrastructure on demand when the business requires it, they need and should be focused on innovating new products or improving the way they work.

The only way to do this is to use a technology that has agility at its heart, this for me is cloud and the business leaders that see this first and embrace it are the ones that will succeed. Cloud was like all great ideas born out of innovation, by using the potential of virtualisation in new and previously unthought-of ways.

But for me its hidden benefit, and maybe in time people will say its main benefit to businesses, is its ability to help drive innovation.

By Julian Box, Posted 4th March 2013.