Report: Where's the value from cloud investments?

Why do executives invest in the cloud, and when do those investments fall short? A new PwC survey sheds light on the C-suite's cloud goals and how to reach them.

Across the board, business and technology leaders from a range of sectors agree that cloud computing tools are critical for a company's growth, a new PwC survey shows. However, more than half said they're not realizing substantial value from their cloud investments.

With the survey, PwC explores why a gap exists between the C-suite's perceived value in the cloud and the realized value, as well as how to close that gap. It starts with aligning objectives -- the survey shows that, based on their role, executives have different ideas about the goals they aim to achieve with cloud computing.  

"As the cloud continues to change the digital fabric of so many organizations, our clients that get it right are those that have focused investment on those capabilities which differentiate them in the marketplace, and unlock value within their industry," Jenny Koehler, US Deputy Advisory Leader for PwC, said in a statement to ZDNet. "Moreover, they take a holistic path on their cloud journey, not just focused on the underlying cloud technology, but including operating model, process and end-user experiential elements for optimal success."

PwC's inaugural US Cloud Business Survey, conducted in early May, surveyed 524 executives from public and private companies across a handful of sectors, including financial services, media, health and energy. It explored what cloud means for executives in a range of leadership roles, including COO, CTO, CFO, CHRO, CRO and board member.

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The survey showed that most executives take ownership for cloud decisions -- 74 percent of respondents said they are involved in cloud strategy, while 70 percent said they are involved in cloud-related talent and upskilling decisions. 

While CIOs are the most involved, at 88 percent, PwC said the survey shows the COO "is emerging as a key business transformation and cloud leader across all areas."

As many as 34 percent of all respondents said they were trying to achieve improved resiliency and agility through cloud computing, making it the top objective of cloud computing initiatives. However, just 18 percent of respondents said they had realized substantial value in that area from their efforts. 

A similar portion of respondents were aiming to improve decision-making through better data analytics -- in this case, just 16 percent said they had realized substantial value. When asked whether they had realized substantial value in 12 target areas, only about half of companies had on average. 

PwC noted that goals differed based on an executive's role. CIOs and board members were most focused on innovation (39 percent and 23 percent, respectively), while CFOs and COOs prize improved resilience (25 percent each). 

"While cloud can and should deliver value across many dimensions, differing views on value can be symptomatic of the fact that many companies haven't made clear strategic choices in cloud investments," the report says. 

Nearly half of business leaders (49 percent) said the inability to measure value was a key barrier to achieving value, and almost as many CFOs (48 percent) said they lack confidence in their ability to measure the return on cloud investments. 

Another commonly-cited barrier to success, the survey shows, is a lack of tech talent. As many as 52 percent of respondents said so.  For COOs and CIOs, that number was even higher. 

PwC noted that upskilling should happen throughout the company, including the C-suite. That means developing "a shared understanding of the company's business goals, how cloud enables them through a new mindset and how value will be measured."