There is no doubt that we live in a fast paced and constantly evolving world. The contemporary business environment is such that even small enterprises need to be able to think on their feet and adapt. The ability of a business to adapt rapidly and cost efficiently in response to changes in the business environment is often described as ‘business agility’ and this particular component of modern business probably becomes more important still within regard to technology.
Naturally technology moves faster than pretty much any area of commerce. Many of the biggest corporations on the planet work with the IT and consumer electronics sectors, and they must constantly strive to innovate and conceive new products, services and technological achievements in order to stay ahead of the opposition.
Of course, one of the most important recent innovations in IT has been cloud computing. The cloud is something we are all becoming more familiar with as it becomes a more prominent part of our everyday lives, yet it is still a pretty new technology. It has become mainstream in a very real sense, as people increasingly access cloud-based services on a regular basis, but it hasn’t perhaps become a household buzzword in the same way that the ‘net itself has.
Thus, some of the technical aspects of the cloud remain a bit of a mystery to the average man and woman in the street, and even those who would consider themselves to be fairly IT savvy. But one property which the cloud was purported to possess was the ability to enhance business agility. Most people are not particularly well placed to assess whether or not is the case, so does this particular claim of the cloud stand up to scrutiny?
If we are to take the pronouncements of the leading IT companies in the world as gospel, then the answer is emphatically in the affirmative. At the recent IBM Pulse 2014 conference, many of the keynote speakers were extremely enthusiastic about the abilities of cloud computing to offer a business this much craved after agility. Robert LeBlanc, Senior Vice President of Software and Cloud Solutions at IBM,spoke about business’ crucial need for agility in this day and age, and the cloud’s ability to deliver it. While Liz Herbert, Principle Analyst at Forrester, spoke directly about how the need for business agility is driving the need for IT speed. One might not unreasonably point out that both of these people potentially have a vested interest in this matter – so does what they were saying really stack up?
Where cloud computing makes its first contribution to business agility is in substituting automation for manual effort. Traditional computing is typically very labour intensive, and requires a huge amount of effort from system administrators, who manually make resources available on a company’s network and internal IT system. By contrast, cloud computing automatically allocates such resources in real time with no human intervention or effort required. Resource APIs andorchestration engines enable the system to do the job of a system administrator, leaving trained IT staff free to work on other important tasks.
Agility really means the ability to react quickly to unexpected conditions. Thus, another way in which cloud computing contributes to business agility is through the delegation of resources. The cloud is designed to enable businesses to easily allocate its network resources to both internal systems and to be cloud-based, but for neither of these states to be permanent. The cloud enables processor intensive applications to be run via the cloud as required, but they can also be operated through existing company architecture and IT systems quite easily. This gives businesses the flexibility that they need to quickly respond to changing market circumstances.
Another key aspect of cloud computing which contributes to business agility is its scalability. Cloud computing is precisely designed to grow with the demands of a business, and to do so in a way which is more convenient and cost effective than traditional means of responding to such growth. No expensive IT hardware purchases required; cloud provides software-based solutions to the perennial issue of scalability.
The discussion related to cloud computing and business agility isn’t all one way, though. One of the biggest requirements of any business today is to have a mobile social media presence. Increasingly, companies need to be able to engage in two-way interactions with customers and businesses, and that the response to events that become viral on social media needs to be much more dynamic and agile.
In order to meet these sort of needs, businesses need to be able to call upon new applications that help them capture potential market opportunities and respond to rapid changes. While deploying such applications within the cloud would be a sensible move under these circumstances, to suggest that simply doing so will make the business more agile could be a bit misleading. Certainly having cloud-based applications offers some of the functionality associated with agility, but it is the applications themselves which more obviously deliver agility in some respects, and the feature set of software which will be required to do this.
What can be said for certain is that cloud computing can make a very significant contribution to the agility of a business. And do so at a very low cost to your company in comparison to traditional solutions. As the technology develops in the coming years, the contribution of cloud computing to business agility will only increase.