From Cost Centre to Engine for Growth – IT Gets Strategic


Customers understand that they need to continue to drive better productivity through the use of information technology and I am seeing it every day with customers across Europe, Middle East and Africa. It seems that the tide is beginning to turn, albeit slowly, and businesses are once again looking out for new information technology that will give them competitive advantage and drive down their overall costs. So what has brought about this change?

IT has undergone a fundamental shift over the past few years, mostly driven by the advent of two hugely disruptive technologies: cloud computing and big data analytics. These technologies have catapulted IT to the top of the corporate agenda. Businesses are waking up to the fact that if they want to transform their business operations and drive growth, they will need to invest in cloud and big data analytics.

IDC’s Enterprise Cloud Computing study, conducted earlier this year, revealed that on average 34% of current IT budgets are allocated to cloud computing technologies, and one in four respondents stated they believe cloud will play a critical role in shaping business strategy. This is clear evidence that businesses are now looking beyond cost savings and towards targeted growth. The same can be said for big data: open source analyst firm Wikibon has predicted that the big data market will grow from around $5 billion today to $50 billion by 2017 – that’s a CAGR of an astonishing 58%. Many organisations are beginning to see the huge potential of big data analysis and clearly want a part of it.

What makes these technologies so sought after by organisations is that they have the potential to drive real change. Cloud and big data analytics are transformational. They transform the business, the IT function and even the roles of employees, making organisations leaner and more geared towards generating new revenue streams while maximising existing ones.

Cloud provides the lean aspect of this. Larger organisations, for example, can operate their own IT as a service model and will be able to monitor IT costs and usage better than ever before. This will deliver far better planning and business alignment. In addition, through cloud, many organisations will no longer have to invest in costly infrastructures and underutilised network capacity. All the systems, applications and network resources they need can be delivered as a service and often on a subscription model. This means organisations only pay for what they need and can rapidly scale their business to accommodate growth.

This is a level of dynamism and agility we simply have not seen before, and it also frees up cash that the business can then invest in developing new services and breaking into new markets. It is due to this that The Centre for Economics and Business Research has predicted that cloud computing could add €177.3 billion per year to Europe’s major economies by 2015.

Big data analytics, meanwhile, provides businesses with the information they need to effectively create and market customer propositions. Drawing on a wide array of information from disparate databases, social media output, open data sources and many more, businesses can now gain key insights into customer behaviour and demand that can make all the difference to business success. If cloud provides organisations with more flexible, cost effective and scalable ways of working, big data delivers a platform on which entire business models and service innovations can be launched.

There has, therefore, never been a more exciting time. For a company such as EMC, which has been in business for over thirty years, it is truly rewarding to see IT infrastructure take such a prominent position in the business world. Technology innovation has seen IT rise above its roots as a simple tool for realising business practices, to a growth engine that is helping businesses not just weather the recession, but thrive in it.

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