Cloud Rises Among North American Firms, But Future Direction Is Still Foggy For Some

Annie Neubrech

Part 8 of the series “The Road to Digital Transformation” 

Within many small and midsize businesses in North America, the phrase “digital transformation” is quickly losing its shiny, “new toy” status from five years ago. Nowadays, it’s an unspoken expectation for over three-quarters of firms as they set a digital foundation that will help them acquire new customers, build revenue growth, and improve efficiency and productivity. And this is the case whether or not an internal IT team is supporting and maintaining the technology landscape.

Quarter after quarter, the concept of a digital foundation is shifting to cloud computing as it steadily transitions from an emerging technology to a mainstream powerhouse for small and midsize firms in this region. The IDC InfoBrief,The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals with Insights for North America,” recently confirmed this observation by revealing that roughly 60% would consider the cloud for future deployments.

Thanks to the cloud, small and midsize businesses are now getting the same access to the latest server technology, speedy data storage, unlimited and dynamic IT resources, and innovation-enabling development tools as their much larger rivals. But at the same time, many firms are not taking the long-term, connected view they need to help ensure that the cloud platform remains an effective foundation for future growth.
future preferences for cloud versus on-premise solutions
Source: The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals with Insights for North America,” IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by SAP, 2017.  

The value of a digital plan in the cloud

Whenever I talk to our North American partners, the conversation always turns to a discussion about two types of small and midsize businesses:

  • Native startups and entrepreneurial endeavors that adopt technology as needed in the moment
  • Firms that are led by executives experienced in scaling businesses and knowledgeable enough to proactively invest in technology that stays one or two steps ahead of current growth

While both approaches have their merits, moving to the cloud is not typically done in one giant leap. The cloud marketplace is just too noisy, crowded, and overwhelming to do anything more than adopting applications and services on an as-needed basis. However, this does not mean that firms can afford to take a short-sighted view of their overall cloud platform.

For example, small and midsize companies in North America have never been immune to cyber-security threats. But as their trove of intellectual property, customer information, bank account and credit card numbers, and a host of other valuable data continue to grow in on-premise and cloud platforms, firms are becoming a bigger target for cyber attackers. Some hackers choose to use ransomware to block a firm from accessing its critical data until money is exchanged. Others embed stealth malware in corporate networks to siphon sensitive data to distant servers. No matter the selected tool, one opening in an organization’s data systems – in the cloud or on premise – is all that hackers need. And if the system comprises a series of point solutions that are not connected, their job becomes all too easy.

Firms with a forward-looking digital plan are better equipped to determine critical capabilities, as well as address security concerns. They know when to update back-office processes, adopt enterprise collaboration, enable e-commerce, and innovate in-house. At the same time, they engage qualified experts to identify applications that fit well with their existing platform and strategy and close any hidden vulnerabilities in the IT architecture. By tying all of these efforts to a particular outcome and future vision, every digital investment will serve as a building block for the next phase of a secure digital evolution. 

To learn how small and midsize businesses across North America are digitally transforming themselves to advance their future success, check out the IDC InfoBrief “The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals with Insights for North America,” sponsored by SAP. For more region-specific perspectives on digital transformation, be sure to check every Tuesday for new installments to our blog series “The Road to Digital Transformation.”

About Annie Neubrech

Annie Neubrech is a Regional Vice President at SAP with responsibility for the partner engagement team in the US sales region. Her teams manage the relationships with more than 200 US partners and distributors that resell and provide services to end-customers as well as the SAP PartnerEdge programs that support them. With SAP since May 2010, Annie’s previous roles with SAP included responsibility for partner recruitment, onboarding, enablement and channel expansion across all partner types (from VAR and SI to OEM and ISV).