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Cloud trends for 2021

Zoho’s VP and GM in APAC, Gibu Mathew, has observed organisations going through different ways of getting things done when employees had to work from home. However, it is clear that the driving theme for organisations in 2020, is accelerated digitalisation. He said that this is evidenced by a Cisco and IDC study where results show 69-percent of SMBs have accelerated digitalisation efforts, due to the pandemic.

All of these were shared during an online media briefing about cloud trends for 2021.

During this briefing as well, he shared, “2020 definitely taught us a lot of things. A lot of learnings and practices we used to follow, kind of was re-emphasised by industry trends in 2020.”

He shared how close to USD3.1 trillion worth of GDP increase could happen in the region, if more SMEs advanced their digitalisation, driving home the point that, “SMBs have to transform (to) stay in business.”

But there is a wide range of readiness from SMBs to do so.

Some are digitally indifferent, some are digital observers, while others are digital challengers. Then there are digital natives who are most advanced in the belief that tech can transform themselves.

Priorities

What are the big priorities for executives in APAC today? For the past five to ten year, it used to be about how to help themselves to increase revenue or reduce cost.

“That’s how they used to look at it,” Gibu said, adding that now these priorities have changed from looking at cost to now looking at how to be more innovative and to reduce risk.

A lot of businesses were affected last year and many even had to shut down. Big retail spaces have had to be replaced by some other vendor who (also had) online business.

He shared how close to USD3.1 trillion worth of GDP increase could happen in the region, if more SMEs advanced their digitalisation.

Gibu explained, “Some trends out there show that unless your business has a strong digital portfolio, it is very difficult to survive.”

He said due to this, businesses prioritise innovation and risk reduction, as these are important drivers for cloud adoption.

The priority to reduce business risk signals a very important change in mindset and will be a very important driver for businesses moving forward.

Gibu noted that governments are trying to improve workforce productivity and quality of manufactured products. This is to enhance the value and profitability of products, and can only come about if there are proper mechanisms in place, like digitalisation, to bring out creativity in people.

Cloud computing technologies could be one of these mechanisms, and Gibu highlighted the cloud revolution as one trend that he sees emerging for 2021.1.29

A cloud revolution

Over the past over 20 years, we have seen websites, online banking, e-commerce, and even digital payments emerge.

The priority to reduce business risk signals a very important change in mindset and will be a very important driver for businesses moving forward.

“We are familiar with many of these concepts already. Public cloud made a lot of these (happen) so easily.

What happened was public clouds hide a lot of complexity. That is one of reasons we saw quite a few services coming up over the last many years, in the cloud.

Last year, we also saw an explosion of online meetings, which is probably one of the most defining (technologies) around how you can save time to attend meetings and events, and without having to travel.

So what this tells us is that businesses are slowly beginning to understand that self-service B2B is possible.

When you talk about cloud computing technologies, it is enabled by different vendors from different solution areas like middleware, runtime, network, storage, servers, virtualisation, applications, and so on.

The cloud delivery system made it all so seamless as though it was delivered by one vendor, Gibu said.

That is one of the reasons for the huge increase in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), over the last ten years. I would say cloud is a huge enabler, and it is all up to human creativity to take this forward.

Cloud spending in APAC itself is growing even though overall IT spending has dropped, Gibu shared, adding that cloud enables businesses to leapfrog all those tech trends.

Consolidation of cloud services

 Gibu gave an informative backgrounder as to why there are so many cloud services out there in the market.

“When things become easy, you will see a proliferation of what it enables (cloud solutions). With technology made simpler with public cloud, a lot of cloud services came out.”

He shared about Chiefmartec.com, a service which keeps track of the marketing technology landscape. This service had noted 150 marketing technology solutions in 2011. By 2020, these number increased to over 8000 different companies or products and services that focus just on marketing technology,

Marketing technology could be anything around advertisements and promotions, or content and experience, or managing social and relationships, commerce, sales and so on.

“There are so many different companies serving a relatively small set of problems,” Gibu pointed out.

From the business perspective, it is a like a buffet with over 8000 dishes – how to you evaluate them all? How do you try and apply them for the business?

Gibu observed also that some solutions’ features tend to masquerade as product, and products tend to masquerade as companies.

“Then products become features into existing products and consolidate to give rise to suites. There is surely going to be a cloud (services) consolidation.”

Availability of choice is good, but too many choices lead to multiple learning curves, little integration, no central administration, no uniform interfaces and a snowballing of complexity, Gibu had opined.

So, a consolidation wave is absolutely important because there is so much option out there that it creates an environment with a lack of context, he said.

From the business perspective, it is a like a buffet with over 8000 dishes – how to you evaluate them all? How do you try and apply them for the business?

In an organisation, different tools for different teams or departments, lead to productivity loss as time is spent trying to coordinate different “islands of applications” to “talk” with each other.

“You could build ‘bridges’ between different apps, but it is important these solutions are working together and getting things done.”

“So, we strongly believe consolidation is going to happen in the cloud space, because the experience that customers and employees expect, needs and demands this (consolidation),” Gibu said.

Security, privacy, and experiences

It came as no surprise that two other trends Zoho observed are more attention to security and emphasis on privacy.

‘Security is an important part of the conversation (now) be it around legacy software installed in data centres or within corporate networks, or when it comes to cloud solutions.”

Besides security, privacy is another important topic to have due to the massive shift by individuals and businesses to doing more on the Internet.

Employees have had to do various work functions from home, for example helpdesk, sales, human resource and more. Gibu opined that there has to be the right tools in place to support a seamless and convenient experience for their employees.

Customer experiences have also adjusted accordingly to being more contactless with online payments to support contactless transactions.

“Customers also want to see seamless response from their vendors or service providers. With different channels available for customers to reach vendors, can vendors give a consistent experience?”

Gibu concluded that artificial intelligence is important for ensuring vendors can provide this seamlessness and convenience to customers.  AI-based tools and an integrated way for helpdesk and sales teams to make quick and informed decisions, can deliver this.