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Executives: we need cloud computing to improve our workforce

KPMG survey finds cloud computing is maturing beyond the demonstration stage, and is becoming a workforce management tool.

Being an employee today is a lot different than it was even 10 years ago. Today, one expects their workplace computing environment to be just as handy as one's personal computing environment.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

Enter the cloud. Business leaders are recognizing that cloud is just what is needed to address this technology gap among employees accustomed to easy-to-use, instantaneous access. The enablement of a flexible and mobile workforce was cited as a driver of cloud usage by 42 percent of executives in a new survey of 500 executives published by KPMG. This is almost triple the 15 percent who saw this benefit just two years ago, in 2012.

The latest survey also finds executives are looking to cloud to help increase employee productivity (54 percent) and higher employee satisfaction (48 percent). KPMG conducted the survey in conjunction with Forbes Insights. (Disclosure: I am an occasional contributor to Forbes Insights, but was not involved with this study.)

How did cloud become the ultimate employee productivity booster in just two years' time? It seemed before, all people cared about when it came to cloud was cutting the costs of standing up applications and maintaining data centers. It really didn't matter if employees were happy with the new arrangements or not.

There may be two factors at work here. First, cloud computing is maturing. A couple of years ago, it was still experimental in many ways, and the only way to sell it to upper management was to show the cost-saving aspect.

That brings us to the second factor at work here. The economy, at least in the US, is far better than it was two years ago. At that time, the doldrums of the financial crisis and its aftermath were still hanging over everything. Saving money and showing extremely high value was the most important metric to be considered.

Now, with the economy humming along, the challenge shifts from cutting to finding the people who can help deliver enterprises to digital nirvana. And competition between employers to fill technology-intensive and data-intensive jobs -- with other types of jobs following along -- is heating up.

Valuable employees stuck working with decrepit, legacy applications may move on to places where technology is more cutting edge, and, yes, more fun to work with.

There's a lot more to the story, of course. The KPMG survey of 539 executives also finds 37 percent using cloud to improve interaction with customers, suppliers and business partners. As the study's authors put it: "The emergence of the digital-savvy customer calls for organizations to embrace new approaches and tools for communication with customers and prospects." The study called out the retail sector, which is seen as embracing the cloud in a big way.

The primary business benefits seen from cloud adoption include improved business performance (73 percent), improved levels of service automation (72 percent), and reduced costs (70 percent).

The risk area of cloud is still unchanged, with 53 percent cite data loss and privacy risk as cloud's most significant challenge. The good news appears to be that while data security still a top concern, it's "less amplified than before," the survey's authors suggest. 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 (now down to 50 percent), and the 83 percent that named data loss and privacy risk as a challenge (again, now down to 53 percent). "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," the study's authors state.

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