Morne Swanepoel, Head of IT Cluster at 4Sight Holdings.
Before the global pandemic, most businesses retained a preference for some on-site infrastructure to control sensitive or mission-critical applications and data. Many businesses also continued to sweat sunk investments into legacy IT infrastructure.
However, the need to support remote working environments accelerated the shift away from on-site physical back-office infrastructure and tools. Empowering remote workers and enabling collaboration capabilities radically changed the perceptions and relevance of cloud computing within the enterprise.
Remote workforces require the right tools to deliver value and contribute effectively to organisational growth, which traditionally included on-premises enterprise applications such ERP, human capital management and CRM systems.
While the mission-critical nature of these solutions remains, the way enterprises procure back-office solutions has changed. Buyers today primarily consider functionality based on fit to provide workers with the right tools to generate the right output.
Many companies have also moved beyond their on-site technology life cycle, which has necessitated a reassessment of their IT requirements. The mandatory cost and benefit analyses that accompany such a decision clearly illustrate the benefits that mature cloud solutions now offer.
While there are costs involved in switching, the long-term benefits related to organisational agility and flexibility, the affordability of pay-per-use commercial models and the operational efficiencies that cloud computing creates offer a compelling value proposition that effectively de-risks the business.
Furthermore, companies realise they can reallocate the capital costs they write off on on-site hardware and software to invest in better end-point hardware for staff, which delivers increased efficiency and enhances the cloud computing user experience.
However, not all cloud solutions are created equal. And, just like on-premises options, there is no one-size-fits-all technology solution. Selecting and crafting the appropriate fit-for-purpose cloud-based solution requires solutionist thinking, rather than the conventional ‘box-drop’ approach.
While the major vendors still dominate the back-end enterprise cloud application market, which means there are only a few options from which to select, companies require a cloud development and deployment strategy that addresses their unique challenges and tailors the user experience to their requirements.
A cloud solutions provider must consult businesses to understand the organisation’s complexity and unique pain points to develop an end-to-end solution that de-risks their operation and adequately addresses their industry- and company-specific needs.
For instance, shifting from an on-premises to a cloud solution poses significant risks to companies that operate in specialised industry verticals due to a potential loss of bespoke functionality, which can negatively impact output.
With the inherent maturity in contemporary cloud-based back-office solutions, which already provide the requisite platform access and security, a cloud solutions provider should focus on building out and delivering the specific functionality and usability that a client requires.
Identifying these features and requirements upfront is key to unlocking cloud computing’s full value proposition as it allows solution providers to construct the required functionality with third-party solutions or bespoke development that complements the vendor offering and adequately addresses the client’s pain points. The same approach will deliver fit-for-purpose cloud solutions for large businesses that operate complex IT environments.
These considerations are vital to successfully transition companies into a cloud-enabled future, which creates opportunities to easily and seamlessly integrate intelligent solutions into the business that further support the people that drive the organisation forward.
For example, artificial intelligence (AI) can augment tedious and onerous administrative tasks, which frees up human resources to focus on more value-adding cognitive tasks or interpretation work within the business.
AI is also more capable and efficient at performing monitoring and compliance tasks. For instance, AI solutions can analyse massive data sets in real-time to identify patterns and pick up anomalous data points that may, perhaps, indicate instances of fraud in payments.
Similarly, integrating advanced machine learning (ML) and robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities within a cloud environment can create exponential operational gains in efficiency by automating tasks.
A case in point is when ML engines pick up information and automatically create orders from PDFs, or when systems read and interpret information to automatically create workflows. These capabilities allow workers to add value to processes beyond simply processing or capturing data.
RPA can also apply intelligence according to established parameters to determine if or when a process requires human intervention and can seamlessly integrate data across multiple systems at the end of a process without the need to recapture data.
In this regard, cloud migration is ultimately the key that unlocks exponential gains in operational performance. Cloud enablement provides access to the powerful tools that support staff and empowers them to add greater value to the business by doing more, and also allows business leaders to redeploy human resources within the business to boost organisational output and efficiency.