How adopting the cloud can boost your productivity

09 November 2015 -


Most management and business applications can now be sourced in the cloud – indeed, whole industries and companies are being built on it. And they will almost certainly make you more productive…

Blayne Pereira and Jess Stillman



Like the atmospheric phenomenon it’s named after, ‘cloud computing’ as a term is both huge in scope and slightly nebulous.

Covering everything from software-as-a-service tools such as Google Drive and Dropbox, which have become an essential part of daily life for businesses and consumers alike, to infrastructure-as-a-service providers such as Amazon EC2 and Rackspace, which provide the flexible, cheap storage behind some of today’s most sophisticated startups, cloud computing can mean everything from backing up your family holiday photos to deploying vast oceans of corporate information at a distance.

Given the richness of offerings available, many business leaders and managers may not be aware of every type and sub-type of cloud-based service out there, but, by now, most do know that this wealth of possibilities can make you and your employees much more productive.

“The emerging workforce wants on-demand access for everything,” says David Griffiths CMgr, founder of management consultancy K3Cubed. “Ultimately, the goal is to bring people together in such a way so that organisations can have information and knowledge available to them on demand.”

The second annual Cloud Adoption Report from cloud data protection firm Bitglass found that 20% more businesses are employing a cloud application as their main productivity tool compared to the survey’s inaugural year.

As of 2015, nearly half of the 120,000 global firms surveyed (48% to be exact) were using the cloud to boost output and efficiency. It’s not the only poll to come to this conclusion. No matter who you ask, you’ll hear the same thing: adoption of cloud solutions is already mainstream and only set to increase.

Boosting productivity in every domain

So which tools are making the biggest difference when it comes to productivity? The big tech players are, of course, top competitors in the field. Google Apps led the way with its suite of tools including Drive and Gmail, but Microsoft is rapidly catching up if not surpassing its rival, at least when it comes to larger companies.

Use of its Office 365 offering, which moves productivity staple Office from your computer into the cloud, has tripled in just one year, according to cloud analysts Bitglass. Businesses have doubled their adoption of cloud-based office productivity tools.

“Cloud adoption is at an all-time high and Microsoft is winning over Google,” says Nat Kausik, Bitglass’s chief executive. “The surprise is that large corporations, even in heavily regulated industries, are gaining confidence in using cloud apps.”

But the industry behemoths are only part of the story. Cloud computing is one area where smaller firms definitely punch above their weight. Simple and low-cost project management tool Basecamp, for instance, has proven hugely popular. It’s made by 37Signals, a company with fewer than 50 employees.

Alternatives such as Asana and Trello are entering the market and giving Basecamp a run for its money.

Other cloud- based offerings are making an impact on productivity not by replacing traditional desktop tools, but by pioneering whole new ways of working.

Take the likes of Yammer (now owned by Microsoft). Dubbing itself an “enterprise social network”, Yammer offers employees alternatives to long email chains and chatting over your cubicle divider by providing a Facebook-like environment for employees to chat about work, share wisdom, and find the right in-house collaborator. Slack is another serious player in this space.


These tools only scratch the surface of what’s available in the cloud. From accounting (FreshBooks) to CRM (Salesforce) or database management (QuickBase), there’s almost certainly a cloud-based offering that can make your people more productive.

Lingering fears

Cloud computing may be in the ascendance, but that doesn’t mean every executive is completely comfortable with these myriad tools. The sheer range of options and their ease of use can cause headaches.

According to a recent survey by consultancy Avanade, one in five business leaders claim it’s impossible to manage the many cloud tools being used by their organisations.

In addition, individuals within a firm often begin using them without seeking formal approval or even informing IT. More than half (60%) of executives expressed concern about this ‘cloud sprawl’ to Avanade.

Finally, there is the threat of data breaches and outages. Security was the top concern among respondents in a recent Gartner survey. But are these fears well founded? Experts say no.

Of course, organisations need to think carefully about which tools to adopt, how to integrate them, and how to protect their data, but, for the most part, cloud-based tools are no less secure or unwieldy in these respects than those hosted on your own premises. In fact, most problems are due to bumbling employees rather than malevolent hackers and are therefore as likely to occur with a server in your office as one in the cloud.

“Cloud services aren’t failing; customers are,” Gartner analyst Jay Heiser insists. So don’t miss out on massive productivity benefits of cloud-based tools because you’re worrying about the wrong things. There are tools available that can make a huge difference at your company right now.

Stop fretting and start benefiting.

For the full article, including more tips on how to get the most out of the cloud, read the Autumn issue of Professional Manager

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