NEW YORK – New data from the U.S. audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG LLP, show the increased use of cloud technology by global business to better connect with their employees and customers. In a new report, titled “Elevating Business in the Cloud,” the firm outlines the results of its 2014 Cloud Survey and interviews with more than 500 global executives from the financial services, retail, healthcare, media and pharmaceutical industries. The report contrasts select aspects of the 2014 survey results with data collected in the 2012 edition of the survey, and outlines important shifts in the usage of and attitudes toward the cloud.
According to the executives in the 2014 survey, the top use of cloud remains driving cost efficiencies (49 percent), as was evident in the 2012 version (48 percent). However, the 2014 survey results reveal that in increasing numbers, organizations are using cloud technology to enact large-scale change, whether within individual business units or across the enterprise. These transformative uses of cloud include: better enabling a flexible and mobile workforce (42 percent) and improving alignment and interaction with customers, suppliers and business partners (37 percent).
Enabling a flexible and mobile workforce
The enablement of a flexible and mobile workforce was cited as a driver of cloud usage by only 15 percent of executives in KPMG’s 2012 Cloud Survey, whereas this result almost tripled in the 2014 survey, with 42 percent of respondents citing this as a transformative mechanism. Additionally, according to the 2014 report, executives cite increased employee productivity (54 percent) and higher employee satisfaction and flexibility (48 percent) as the top two benefits of using cloud to improve workforce mobility.
“People’s expectations as employees are a lot different than they were ten years ago,” said Mark Shank, Managing Director of the Digital and Mobile practice at KPMG. Shank continued, stating, “Employees today demand the same access, experience and richness on their work computers and mobile devices as they have on their personal devices. Cloud is making that possible, and organizations are turning to it to enable a more flexible and mobile workforce.”
Improving alignment and interaction with customers
Similarly, the cloud is being used to transform customer interactions, as the emergence of the digital-savvy customer calls for organizations to embrace new approaches and tools for communication with customers and prospects. This is especially true in the retail sector. Compared to other industries, retail executives in the 2014 survey were more than seven percent more likely to say their organizations are using cloud to improve alignment and interaction with customers, suppliers and business partners.
“This finding syncs well with what we are working with our clients to accomplish, as we encourage them to think differently about how they engage with their constituents,” says Rick Wright, Principal and Global Cloud Enablement Leader at KPMG.
Jeanne Johnson, a Principal on KPMG’s Management Consulting team who focuses on consumer markets, added, “Today’s empowered consumers expect more from their retail experience, and this adds pressure and uncertainty to retail businesses and operating models. Consumers expect to be known, recognized, and offered personalized insight and offerings. They want to interact with the brand in person, on-line, on the go — on their terms. They also prefer ready access to knowledgeable and responsive associates across those various channels.”
Johnson added, “The pace and variability of change is driving the acceleration of cloud solutions to enable retailers to make the broad range of operational and business changes to remain competitive in this evolving consumer landscape.”
Data Security still a top concern, but less amplified
According to 50 percent of survey respondents, the risk of intellectual property theft is the most significant challenge to doing business in the cloud, followed by data loss and privacy risk, which was cited by 45 percent. When these results were compared with responses to the 2012 survey, security and data privacy have become greater concerns than cost efficiency, which was cited as the most significant challenge at that time. However, while respondents acknowledge continued security concerns, the comparison to the 2012 survey also results show a substantial decline from the 78 percent of executives that named intellectual property theft a challenge, and the 83 percent that named data loss and privacy risk as a challenge. This suggests that over time, security has become less of a challenge and cloud adopters may feel they’re better prepared now to secure their data, as well as manage data breaches when they do occur.
“While the challenge posed by cloud related data loss and privacy threats are less pronounced in the minds of global industry leaders, they are still taking the issue seriously,” said Wright. “The clear trend in the data that we have collected shows that, even in the face of significant media attention paid to recent data breaches, global leaders are still willing to embrace the transformative potential of the cloud.”
About the study
Forbes Insights, on behalf of KPMG, conducted the web-based survey between December 2013 and March 2014. The survey collected data from 539 total respondents from the financial services, healthcare, media and pharmaceutical industries. All respondents were either CFOs, CEOs or CIO/IT leaders at their respective companies. Respondents came from the U.S., Canada, Australia, China, India, Japan, France, Germany, the UK and Brazil.