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How important is agility in business? In recent years, certainly since cloud computing came to dominate debates around enterprise IT, agility has been discussed in the same sort of terms that organisations used to talk about innovation.
This begs an interesting question: which is more important to modern businesses success, being truly innovative or simply being first?
A recent Oracle survey has shed some light on these questions. For businesses today agility is not just important, it is critical to their survival.
In fact, the global study revealed that for most large businesses the ability of competitors to move faster than them – both in terms of creating customer-facing services and new internal ways of working – is the single most important competitive threat.
So businesses see a clear link between competitiveness and agility. Which is why it is so surprising that the survey also revealed that only 16% of respondents believe their own businesses are as agile and flexible as they need to be.
In the age of the cloud, agility is on offer for all, so why are so many businesses falling behind? The respondents to our survey were clear: red tape/governance (50%); the cost of becoming agile (33%); the size of their organisations (31%) and inflexible IT infrastructures (27%) were all cited as major barriers to agility.
Many of these barriers are, however, largely illusory and can be overcome by businesses fully embracing the cloud.
In fact, that is perhaps the first and hardest step that businesses must overcome: implementing a cultural change across their organizations to enable agility.
While respecting the relevant regulatory frameworks that govern their industries, businesses must be willing to streamline their processes as much as possible to prepare the ground for the cloud. It is a step that partners and vendors can consult on, but the impetus must come from the company itself.
From that point, cloud technologies largely address the other barriers businesses struggle with today. But once again, for true agility businesses need to commit.
The cloud today is no longer simply about taking a few core applications on a subscription model. Rather it is about integrating the cloud at every point of the business where it can add value.
Cloud platforms help businesses evolve
When it comes to enabling business agility this largely involves integrating platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solutions into the enterprise IT infrastructure. PaaS, or cloud platforms as they can be called, essentially allow businesses to test, develop and deploy applications in the cloud without having to invest in the underlying applications infrastructure.
Modern cloud platforms also allow companies to tailor existing applications (either on-premises or cloud-based) to more exactly fit their business needs.
Importantly, with some of the better cloud platforms on offer, businesses can easily migrate these applications between private, public and hybrid environments, giving them complete flexibility over where specific workloads run.
In the past developing and testing new applications and setting up new environments would take weeks or even months. The longer the timeframe, of course, the more costs creep up and the more likely a competing business will get there first.
Cloud platforms cut development timeframe to days, reducing the cost of application development and increasing the likelihood that the business will be first to market with the new service. At a stroke the concerns that businesses today have about the cost and flexibility of their IT infrastructures are met.
It’s not about size
That leaves us with one final barrier: those businesses who consider themselves too large to be agile.
The truth is that in the age of the cloud size is completely irrelevant. Cloud technologies provide smaller businesses with access to the sort of infrastructure and services that in the past would have been the preserve of huge organisations, with IT budgets that would make Croesus blanch.
But it works both ways. The cloud gives large, established organisations the ability to be as light-footed at the newest of startups. With modern cloud platforms, any idea can go from drawing broad to implementation within weeks. A new idea for a great online customer service or the mobilisation of an existing sales application, for example, can be developed, tested and launched within a very short timeframe. The same goes for any internal applications.
This is the core of agility: the ability of businesses to evolve their external and internal services at will and in the way that suits them best. It is a capability that cloud development platforms are ideally suited to deliver.
For those businesses that do not believe they are as flexible as they need to be, therefore, cloud platforms offer an easy and lasting fix.
With the right cultural attitude in place and a commitment to truly embracing cloud as a core part of the business, organisations stand to benefit from a huge competitive boost.
Unbound, the agile cloud business will leave the competition for dust.
By Tim Scott, director, Oracle Cloud Platform