For example, while about half of the respondents (48 percent) believe that big data analytics can enhance the value of the information and analysis used for business decisions, slightly more than a third (36 percent) admitted that they simply aren’t sure. This suggests a fairly widespread need for finance executives to get up to speed on the capabilities of the emerging analytical approach to data collection and data mining.
Grasping the Cloud
A large segment of the finance population feels similarly underinformed about the best uses of cloud computing. Consider that a little less than half of the respondents (46 percent) are “believers,” agreeing that cloud computing is likely to replace their on-premises IT systems within the next few years. Companies in this group consider themselves in the forefront of the move to cloud computing, with 57 percent characterizing themselves either as “early adopters” or “fast followers” (see Figure 2, below).
The “nonbelievers” — those stepping forward more tentatively — have yet to fully grasp the cloud’s potential. For example, a whopping 58 percent of this segment said they simply don’t know enough to determine whether or not cloud computing offers better control over IT costs. A larger proportion of the believers (61 percent) had no such doubts, recognizing a range of benefits the technology offers.
The perceived advantages of the cloud extend beyond cost considerations. A majority (61 percent) of the believers recognize the benefits of cloud computing for allowing better control over IT costs; even more of them (76 percent) think that cloud computing can help improve business processes. Their reasons for adopting cloud services ranged from gaining “more secure storage” to “harnessing big data.”
Even those who aren’t ready to make wholesale changes are still interested in using cloud technology to improve their business practices — in some cases, apparently, whether they know it or not. Cloud-based services often provide a critical, if unseen, conduit for on-demand information flows among an increasingly mobile workforce. So while the CFO of a small provider in the aerospace and defense industry said his company isn’t likely to replace its information systems with cloud technology, he noted that the most significant change in his company’s use of IT within the next two years will be the “use of mobile computing linking field agents to finance processes.”
The ultimate goal for many, as the chief executive of a small nonprofit put it, is “being able to access all files 24/7, 365 from any location with any device.” Increasingly, the information highway is turning into an information skyway that travels through the cloud. Companies that have yet to begin that flight — mapping out a route for using the new technologies to drive growth, improve agility and minimize cost — risk finding themselves losing altitude to competitors.