Feature: What is driving businesses to the cloud?
Consultant Grant Gevers discusses the key reasons behind why businesses need to look to the cloud for digital solutions.
What is driving enterprises to the cloud?
John F Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” This is especially true for business IT, with many businesses that neglect newer technologies often facing internal process inefficiencies and competitive disadvantages.
Cloud computing is one of these technologies. It has gained traction with consumers in the past decade, but businesses are only now beginning to realise the impact adoption can have. But what are the key factors that are driving this realisation?
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For SMEs, the drivers often include a need for connectivity, the desire to improve operations and data flexibility.
It’s estimated that in 2020 there will be over five billion internet users, with over half of these accessing the internet through a smartphone or handheld device. The increased connectivity between devices because of platforms like the cloud means that we can bring the three silos of work, home and our social interests into one seamless experience.
Crucially, it also means that staff working out of office are able to remotely update a company’s systems. For example, a sales manager could update a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) software with new customer or supplier data. This ensures that information is kept up to date so there is a reduced risk of lost data.
Efficiency, or lack thereof, is an extremely common cloud driver for businesses. The Cloud Enterprise Report found that 71 per cent of businesses worldwide had employed the cloud to improve their employee efficiency. In fact, it’s recently been revealed that the government now also uses cloud services for the same reason and is used for tasks such as tax administration.
Improving IT agility and efficiency offers various other benefits including business growth. In 2015, more than half of the enterprises surveyed reported an increased growth since adopting cloud technologies.
This isn’t a complete surprise. The IDC predicts that in 2018, 70 per cent of a business’s total output will be held back because of out-dated business models and legacy technology.
This is because first-generation business applications operate as individual processing systems that do not exchange data or interact with any of the company’s other data systems. In today’s highly connected business world, this type of system prevents businesses from collecting accurate, real-time enterprise information that can be used to improve its operations.
Employing cloud-based software means businesses can provide a fully-hosted, managed service model that migrates all of a business’s critical data and applications to the cloud, which can then be delivered through a desktop session.
By choosing a third party to host key applications such as ERP and CRM systems, businesses can eliminate concerns over data backups and hardware failure and ensure flexibility. Businesses can also scale up and down their software depending on business needs, meaning that cloud-based software provides no technology constraints on growth.
Instead of resisting the shift to the cloud, businesses should look to the right supplier to guide them in choosing the right applications for their business model.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”