The discussion of whether the cloud will fundamentally change how businesses operate is long over. Any remaining doubters need only look at some of the latest statistics to grasp this concept: the global public cloud market is predicted to hit $236 billion in 2020, 70% of organizations have one application in the cloud by 2016, or the pronouncement from one leading analyst firm stating that “by 2020, a corporate ‘no-cloud’ policy will be as rare as a ‘no-internet’ policy is today.”

The real question for late or partial adopters is no longer “how will the cloud change my business?” The question is, “how has the cloud already changed my business, and the business of my competitors?” By looking at the recent history of cloud computing in the business world, a sea of changes ranging from how companies organize themselves to best practices in customer relations are apparent. These seismic shifts — the most prominent five of which are described below — should cause even the most hardened luddite to contemplate the transformations still to come.

The results have spoken for themselves so far. But just in case you’re still not up to speed, here are five ways cloud has already changed businesses forever:


Reduced operating costs and cost flexibility

Few benefits of cloud adoption are more apparent than the cost advantages, especially over the long term. Cloud reduces traditional spending on data centers, on-premises equipment, and the dedicated teams of IT personnel needed to man them. The consumption method of most cloud services is very flexible — in the event of an economic downturn or poor sales cycle, a company can meter its usage of a cloud service in response to budget changes. These savings aren’t negligible, and have been evident since cloud implementation moved into the mainstream; multiple reports say the number one way businesses were using cloud technology was to reduce cost inefficiencies, a trend that can only have strengthened in the subsequent years. Furthermore, the wide range of cloud options currently available allows enterprises to select deployments ideal for their specific application or service requirements.


Workforce mobility and agility

The flexibility and responsiveness of enterprise workers has grown exponentially with cloud adoption. Employees with access to the cloud are empowered to work however and wherever they want, with full access to essential company data and applications. A survey found that enterprise workers’ biggest interest in cloud implementation was “improved access to corporate data” (65%), increases in productivity and time management (48%), and “better collaboration with co-workers and other stakeholders” (47%). These improved capabilities, powered by full mobility across distance, time and systems, lead to a more effective workforce that produces more for less time and money. In short, the move to cloud is widely recognized as a boost to worker productivity and thus company profits, one that businesses would be remiss to discount.


Improved customer engagement

Consumers are increasingly more tech savvy and demanding of real time, proactive service from businesses across devices. Cloud computing allows businesses the capacity to engage their customers as demanded. One report noted that the third most common goal of businesses using cloud technology was improved alignment with current and potential customers. These changes in customer expectations are not going to regress, and anyone who thinks that their business can survive with old systems of engagement will quickly be dealing with a diminished customer base and curtailed profits.


IT transformation

The cloud also encourages companies to reorient their IT strategy and workforce in a way that is more responsive and agile. Particularly, public, private, or hybrid cloud usage across different business departments for different tasks has become an increasingly common practice for companies, and as such each business group or team needs to have IT assistance that is geared towards their specific circumstance with a cloud computing mindset. A report detailing these changes notes that the appropriate response involves the creation of separate, dedicated cloud IT teams that can respond to customer engagement issues and coworker concerns in a timely, informed manner through the ability to monitor, analyze, troubleshoot, and provision deployments throughout different cloud ecosystems. Such a breakup and dispersion of IT will require IT and business managers to adopt new mindsets and skills, leading to a new way of holistic thinking mindful of potential inefficiencies and security concerns. Old silo methods of IT are increasingly obsolete in agile, forward-thinking businesses.


Changing security paradigm

Moving data into the cloud brings with it new security challenges and concerns. Businesses using the cloud have had to modernize their security outlook, an understandable reaction given lingering doubts about the new system. These new concerns included sophisticated attacks, workers not following company security rules and protocols, and the increasing complexity of these protocols. However, as another report posits, such challenges are a prompt for companies to rethink, streamline, and modernize their approach to security strategy in a bimodal way mindful of both innovation and risk. Furthermore, different clouds provide different levels of security, so companies can pick the option or options best suited to their particular needs.

The cloud has changed the business world forever. As any remaining doubts are swept away, we must look honestly at the changed landscape surrounding us. More flexible expenses, an empowered workforce, increasingly engaged customers, a reformed IT department, and a modern security vision are par for the course in today’s environment. Any business coming up short must start running now.


This article was originally posted “5 Ways Cloud Has Forever Revolutionized How Businesses Operate” from Cloud Strategy Magazine.