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Cloud Integration and the Perceived Barriers

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Cloud Integration and the Perceived Barriers

Don't believe that cloud integration is worth it yet? Take a look at this article about the perceived barriers to cloud, and how the benefits justify the risk.

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The cloud has been a hot technology topic in recent years, and is becoming more commonplace than ever as business leaders realize the value it adds.

The cloud has existed for a long time but has only recently become widely available to both businesses and consumers. The cloud has arguably existed since the 1960s with John McCarthy’s "utility computing" proposal, but early cloud-hosted applications include Salesforce and Amazon Web Services, coming about in 1999 and 2002 respectively. In a few short years, the cloud has evolved to host secure and sophisticated applications, systems and even servers; it’s now a business essential.

More businesses than ever are utilizing the cloud, migrating data and storage to off-premise cloud servers and implementing cloud-hosted applications such as Office 365. Most of these businesses are using a hybrid approach, blending public and private cloud services with more traditional solutions.

The move to the cloud, however, can be challenging. A recent Oracle study with business and IT decision makers found that there are significant barriers preventing businesses from making the most of cloud technologies. While most organizations are now using the cloud in some capacity, 81% believe cloud applications must be fully integrated in order to utilize the full benefits of the cloud, according to a previous survey by Oracle and Dynamic Markets.

The latest Oracle study highlighted the misalignment of business goals and IT projects; 62% of those surveyed said IT must collaborate better with other areas of the business in order for cloud implementation to be successful. This is further reflected in the 34% who said managing shadow IT, whereby decision makers outside of IT purchase technology without consulting the IT department, is a significant barrier.

Cloud integration can be a tricky business, but it’s becoming easier as more people use and understand APIs, which are more sophisticated and open than ever. In order for these integrations to be successful, IT must have complete control over all IT purchases and therefore integrations. The lines between IT and other areas of business have become blurred, as Finance Directors take charge of implementing ERP solutions and those confident in their technological knowledge take it upon themselves to purchase and implement business systems.

This is often the case with finance and HR, departments that typically work on legacy systems. While innovative new ERP or HR technologies like Dynamics NAV, Dynamics 365 or Nintex HR workflows are available in the cloud, many businesses have outdated systems in these areas. Resistance from these departments further delays upgrades and the implementation of innovative technologies.

The existence of legacy systems means one of the biggest barriers for these decision makers is the integration of their current systems; 47% of respondents cited this as a significant issue. It’s clear that integrated cloud services would eliminate this issue, but IT faces resistance from around the business — 41% said other departments didn’t understand the need for cloud integration.

Another key concern for many is the migration of workloads and applications at a time when businesses are more strained than ever.

For a long time, IT has been integral to the way businesses operate, but that’s about it. Businesses needed email capabilities and word processing for communication and productivity, and CRM and ERP systems for storing customer data and financial purposes. It’s only in recent years that a significant number of business owners have prioritized digital transformation. In a few short years, IT has changed from a necessity to a competitive advantage.

The report provides a stark warning to businesses that are resisting or delaying a move to the cloud; over half of the Fortune 500 companies from 20 years ago have dropped off the list or disappeared as more “agile and innovative” companies took their place. A survey conducted by Fortune 500 confirmed this; CEOs’ biggest concern was “the rapid pace of technological change”.

The cloud boasts a significant range of benefits that have made business leaders across the world sit up and take notice. While 36% of UK respondents said they find it hard to prove the ROI of cloud technologies, and a further 31% concerned about the increased costs, cloud services can allow for significant savings. An immediate ROI can be seen in the savings on floor space and energy, as the cloud reduces the need for on-premise servers. The cloud forms the foundation upon which transformational technology will sit. It’s encouraging, then, that over half of businesses (63%) are planning to move their entire IT estate to the cloud in the future according to the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF).

The key benefits realized by respondents of the Oracle survey were better collaboration between business and IT and a high-quality service for users. The cloud enables better collaboration, breaks down the silos in businesses, and is key to organizations who may have multiple offices or simply a lot of employees. The flexibility and mobility afforded to employees by the cloud means a significant increase in productivity, with the ability to work anytime, anywhere. Microsoft found that 79% of business cloud users reported significant cost savings, increased employee productivity, and improved security as a result of using the cloud.

Adopting cloud technologies now also means future integrations with additional services will be quicker and easier, thanks to cloud APIs. While 34% are worried about a perceived security risk, cloud technologies offer significant backup capabilities, crucial to disaster recovery. What’s more, cloud providers like Office 365 are wrapped in sophisticated security policies.

The first step in adopting not only cloud technology, but wider transformational technologies, is for IT to be involved in any and all technology implementations. Ad hoc ‘shadow IT’ purchases and departments on legacy systems hold a business back, making it harder to implement innovative technologies. This results in cost inefficiencies, a longer time to deployment for technology projects (a bugbear for 49% of respondents) and often a duplication of resources. Allowing IT to drive a digital transformation strategy that sits at the heart of business strategy is crucial to staying competitive. IT should no longer be seen as a department that just fixes PCs and puts out fires, but as a key player in business transformation.  For this to work the traditional IT Manager/Director roles will need to transform into that of the redefined CIO. This role will take in a wider business responsibility and understanding rather than simply keeping the lights on, and innovation and digital transformation will be expected.

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