As an ISV, service provider or system integrator that’s firmly in touch with your target industries and markets, you’ll know how important the cloud is to the present – and future – of computing.

Cloud has emerged as a highly lucrative technology to provide in recent years, as more and more businesses have come to appreciate its flexibility, scalability and connectivity. And for organisations like yours enabling these companies to move into the cloud, the exciting news is that cloud growth is set to continue in the coming years.

Gartner research estimates that the value of the worldwide cloud market will grow by 58 per cent in the next three years to a total of $411billion in 2020. What’s more, within that figure, increased value in software-as-a-service (SaaS) will outstrip even that rate, growing by 70 per cent to almost $100billion.

So where is this growth going to come from? What are the key areas of innovation and business practice that you should be looking at, as you strive to keep your offerings at the forefront of the marketplace?


Machine-learning will become even more advanced

Machine learning, cognitive technology and ‘artificial-intelligence-as-a-service’ is already giving businesses much-needed flexibility, either to automate laborious human services or make existing intelligent functions more intuitive. This will become even more valuable to them as the capabilities of these innovations increase.

The possibilities of what can be done with tech like this are virtually endless. But one that is of particular interest to providing organisations is in the day-to-day operations of customer service.

For example, we’re all familiar with the chatbots that pop up on websites and conduct basic conversations with us, based on a pre-defined set of responses. But advances in cognitive and machine learning are coming so fast that these chatbots are already starting to look dated, when compared to AI-based systems that can apply analytics to queries and deliver the most suitable replies.

There’s a knock-on human benefit to all this, too. Theoretically, if the most time-consuming and repetitive of tasks can be automated, then workforces – in provider and customer teams alike – can be freed up to do more valuable or creative work.


Firms will pay a premium for better services

While plenty of firms are getting cloud-based providing right, a lot of others are getting it wrong. This is breeding a lot of client dissatisfaction, but in turn is opening up more opportunities for the best performers in the marketplace.

A report from 451 Research has found that 75 per cent of IT professionals surveyed would pay more for better services. Security, guaranteed uptime, better customer service and better operational management are all cited as leading issues.

Perhaps even more damning was the finding that only 20 per cent said their cloud tech vendors met expectations in migrations involving on-premise infrastructures.

What this means is that you can try and turn a negative into a positive. These figures point to a cloud market that, despite the volume of vendors and providers around, isn’t quite as established and mature as the customer base would like it to be. This can hand a huge competitive advantage, therefore, to those that can provide the most robust and professional of services.


Security vulnerabilities are still widespread

Not only are security threats still a significant issue within the cloud, but there’s even a suggestion that some of these vulnerabilities just aren’t being addressed by the marketplace full stop.

A recently-released report into cloud security trends by RedLock has revealed that, among other findings, nearly two-thirds of enterprise databases aren’t encrypted and more than 80 per cent of companies aren’t managing host vulnerabilities in the cloud effectively.

It’s as if the rush by clients to adopt the latest cloud capabilities was so fevered that ensuring the appropriate security measures were in place became an afterthought. That seems incredible, given the frequency and severity of the breaches that we all see so often in the media, but it appears that countless businesses are failing themselves with their security arrangements.

This is where providers and vendors are in positions to integrate the most robust security platforms into their offerings, and demonstrate the value of them to customers. If those customers can’t take themselves into a new security era, then it can be your job to do it for them.


Joining the dots between services

As what can be created and run in the cloud is so adaptable, customers no longer necessarily need (or want) separate tools to serve specific functions and departments within their businesses.

For example, a survey by MIT has found that over a third of executives are planning to create a shared finance/HR function within the next year. These are two business functions where cloud flexibility and mutual co-operation could both be extremely beneficial.

The freedom to experiment that’s offered by cloud platforms like IBM Cloud comes into its own in situations like these. Savvy service providers and vendors can work from a virtually blank canvas to shape offerings that take a holistic view of the customer and fulfil several needs within one adaptable package.


So what’s the next step?

Well, the closest things to certainties we have now are that the cloud industry will look vastly different at the start of the next decade compared to how it looks now, and that 2018’s premier offerings just won’t cut it in 2020. So, in the meantime, staying agile and responsive to emerging needs, demands and trends over the next three years can only be of benefit to the ambitious and successful vendor or provider like you.

You can develop innovative, secure and intuitive cloud solutions quickly, easily and affordably with IBM Cloud. 

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