Looking skyward: the new era of cloud technology

I once had the dubious pleasure of being persuaded to take on the descent of a mountain called La Diavolezza. I felt I was up to the task. But descending the first 50 metres, realising the mountain was sheet ice – La Diavolezza was in fact a narrow icy ridge – and as the weather closed in, the predominant thought in my mind was to turn back. This was way out of my comfort zone and a leap into the unknown.

Perhaps this analogy can be applied to the adoption of cloud services. At present, cloud deployment is often wrongly perceived as a huge risk with a “successful” deployment simply akin to stepping over the top of a mountain with no visibility.

However, as organisations work to respond to emerging trends and changing market conditions, the way in which we regard cloud technology needs to be adjusted. It is not a deployment method that we simply procure, it is a re-engineering of both corporate infrastructure and strategy.

This concept is reinforced by three key points, namely the evolution of customer demands, the advancement of employee requirements and the anticipation surrounding future technology.

Firstly, it is important that we understand how profoundly the market is evolving. Clients procuring advertising or consulting services, for example, want to see value and measurable results against key performance indicators (KPIs), digital innovation, an ever-improving client experience that delivers low risk and the delivery of higher-quality projects for a fiercely competitive price.

Global professional services companies must recognise the benefits that artificial intelligence and robotics are bringing to their industry

Similarly, the evolution of employee demands show growing numbers of millennials in the workplace are simply not attracted to employers who run legacy business software. Many of these millennials only know the cloud state, are digitally connected with unprecedented opportunities and companies are already finding they have no choice but to cater for these digital natives or run the risk of losing out on top talent to competitors.

Finally, global professional services companies must recognise the benefits that artificial intelligence and robotics are bringing to their industry. Gartner has already coined the term “algorithmic IT operations”, which predicts application behaviour before problems arise so processes can be executed without human intervention.

We are also being confronted head on with augmented enterprise reality, which enables the visualisation of large amounts of data so it can be interpreted, analysed and imported before acting on it. Being a part of this evolution and actively operating within these current and futuristic concepts is impossible with archaic business technology in individual data centres.

Delve a little deeper into the benefits of cloud and it is linked directly to the concept that professional services firms have three choices to deliver value to customers – customer intimacy, product leadership and operational excellence.

Companies that focus on customer intimacy have extensive knowledge of their target market, and customise services and product offerings to match demand. They also find real value in big data analytics because of the insight it provides. Product leadership is exactly as it implies – the importance is placed on producing innovative products and services that directly respond to a market issue. Finally, those firms focusing on operational excellence approach the production and delivery of products and services strategically. They prioritise business processes and excellence above everything else.

Professional services firms should set ambitious goals for cloud adoption, make sure their leadership teams are aligned and harness strong support from their technology partner

Cloud technology, especially the likes of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, which sits at the heart of all business operations for a professional service firm, has the ability to support all three of these value delivery models because it creates a new kind of agility around the customer experience. This is particularly relevant when considering the elements of pace, economies of scale, elasticity and the new digital ecosystem in which we operate.

At present, professional service firms who are deriving the most value have a cloud partner that understands not only their industry but the intrinsic and individual nature of their business. Due to this they are able to accelerate the pace and impact of change that is relevant to them, enhance operations, optimise service offers, bolster the bottom line and translate decisions into actions quickly. They have a balance between a stable yet flexible infrastructure and reassurance backed by contractual guarantees on performance and security.

Looking forward, market-leading, agile professional services firms will be those that were savvy enough to identify that cloud and the new technologies within it are poised to make a serious difference to their industry. They will spend their time with the right partner that understands the unique nature of their business to identify the right KPIs and financial objectives, so they can revitalise the traditional operating model and deliver greater value to their clients.

The ascent itself won’t happen overnight but as technology evolves, and industry and client demands change, firms must not leave potential financial benefits on the table. Instead professional services firms should set ambitious goals for cloud adoption, make sure their leadership teams are aligned and harness strong support from their technology partner. Now is the time to build momentum for the journey ahead.

It turned out Diavolezza means “the beautiful she devil” and it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life.

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