Part 4 of “Cloud-Driven Competitive Advantage” series

Cloud adoption is starting to take off worldwide – and small and midsize businesses are at the forefront of this revolution. Challenged with tight budgets and limited resources, 68.4% of small firms and 86.6% of midsize companies are betting their hard-earned revenue on the convenience and accessibility of a range of cloud solutions, according to IDC.

According to the IDC InfoBrief “Using Cloud Capabilities for Competitive Advantage: How Small and Midsize Companies Worldwide Are Adopting Cloud Technology to Meet Key Business Goals,” sponsored by SAP, cloud investments made by small firms have grown by 9x over the last six years. Meanwhile, midsize companies have increased theirs by 4.5x.

It’s interesting to note that 70% of those who have implemented cloud services say that their top expected benefits were met or exceeded. These benefits include cost reduction, increased revenues and productivity, improved agility, and access to new services. 

But despite their excitement and early success, business owners and leaders are voicing concerns about their long-term cloud strategy. Is it possible that their current focus on immediate gains could hamper their ability to leverage the cloud to help their firms scale, secure widespread adoption, and take advantage of new innovations before competitors do?

Early cloud wins need to transition into long-term competitive differentiators

The more I talk to leaders from small and midsize businesses, the more I understand that IT efficiencies and standardization are currently among the top drivers for cloud investment. With cloud technology, IT departments no longer need to focus on infrastructure maintenance and software upgrades; customized on-premise or home-grown systems dependent on the knowledge of a few are replaced with standards-based solutions that scale in the cloud and ease IT resource burdens. Another enticing proposition is the promise of cost-effective, accelerated access to tools and advanced innovation that would otherwise be unavailable and unaffordable.

These advantages explain why so many firms are comfortable with adopting cloud technology as soon as possible – or, in some cases, choosing it as their first-ever IT platform. The IDC InfoBrief reveals that small and midsize companies are relying on the cloud to foster the foundational pillars of a digital business: end-to-end collaboration, customer relationship management, next-generation enterprise resource planning, e-commerce, social media analytics, marketing tracking, and advanced business analytics.

To remain competitive, companies also need to consider how emerging cloud technologies – including artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotic process automation, and the Internet of Things – can enhance business operations. This new era of machine-led and connected computing is presenting an opportunity to set the foundation for innovation that transforms business operations and potentially the very nature of how it competes.

HR can play a pivotal role in cloud-driven transformation

When it comes to pushing the business forward through times of transition, the HR organization can be a transformational force. Workforce-related processes touch employees of all levels, enabling the possibility of shifting behaviors, evolving mindsets, and providing experiences that can lead to groundbreaking innovation, engagement, and productivity.

HR’s acceptance of cloud technology can also play a central role in helping the business move to the cloud without delay. The very nature of the cloud makes it easier to commit to a technology that can scale and expand along with the business. This approach allows firms to concentrate on growing the business, instead of putting significant effort in maturing its technology.

This HR-first approach to cloud migration is a powerful way to model the potential benefits and value to the entire workforce and leadership team. From recruiting, onboarding, and talent management to payroll and organizational administration, everyone gets a first-row seat to see how the cloud influences workplace culture, opens lines of collaboration and learning, streamlines processes, simplifies workflows, and accelerates response to change.

Once business functions get a glimpse of what the cloud can do, they will most likely want to leverage the technology to better engage with colleagues, partners, suppliers, and customers. Over time, business models and processes will adapt as marketing dynamics evolve, technology advances, and consumer demand shifts. More important, a platform of innovation is created, releasing mindshare from the shackles of day-to-day technology administration and strategy to take advantage of the business’ momentum towards future success.

Find out how cloud technology is helping firms achieve their strategic goals and become a disruptive force in the marketplace. Read the IDC InfoBrief “Using Cloud Capabilities for Competitive Advantage: How Small and Midsize Companies Worldwide Are Adopting Cloud Technology to Meet Key Business Goals,” sponsored by SAP. And don’t forget to check every Tuesday for new installments to our blog series “Cloud-Driven Competitive Advantage” to explore the possibilities for your business.

Blog originally published on the Digitalist Magazine