Written by Wayne Barber, Oosha: As relatively early adopters of cloud technology, the professional services sector continues to flock towards software-as-a-service (SaaS) and hosted platforms at pace.
Back in 2014, IDC figures identified almost 24% of professional service firms as cloud adopters, and this number has boomed in the years since – with a recent Mimecast survey finding only the technology sector moving to cloud solutions at a faster rate.
Meanwhile, The Harvey Nash / KPMG CIO Survey 2016 – the largest IT leadership study in the world – shows professional services anticipating further increased spend on IaaS, PaaS and SaaS Cloud services over the next three years.
Such continued levels of commitment to the cloud show adoption is still on an upward curve, and that generally firms are more comfortable with the technology. Previous concerns around data security, loss of control, availability and performance have subsided, with professional service businesses recognising that the benefits of the cloud now far outweigh the risks.
Traditional barriers to cloud adoption: What’s been stopping you?
For firms operating in heavily regulated markets, perceived compliance control issues have historically been one of the most prominent arguments against cloud adoption. Yet as more and more businesses make successful transitions to the cloud, without adversely impacting compliance, these concerns have proven to be unfounded.
The KPMG CIO survey 2017 shows that legal and financial services firms no longer believe cloud-based services make it harder to stay compliant with industry regulations. Questioned on the main challenges of cloud adoption, only 26% of professional service respondents raised legal and regulatory issues as a concern – much lower than the all-business average of 35%.
For professional service firms considering a move to the cloud, data security and privacy are perceived to be the primary challenge (54%), but these fears too are steadily being overcome.
The use of private, UK-based data centres (ISO 27001 certified, PCI-compliant and protected by both physical and virtual security) are normally far more secure than an on-site server – while simultaneously bringing the added benefits of mobility, flexibility and improved performance.
Clear cloud benefits for the professional services sector
In the increasingly fast-paced world of professional services, the ability for fee earners and their teams to work easily on the move and at any time is now an imperative. Cloud technology makes it more feasible for a modern workforce to operate more productively with better connectivity, tighter security and a much improved user experience.
Mobility is a key driver for professional services, more so than with many other industries. 27% of KPMG respondents listed this as a key driver behind a move to the cloud – compared to 19% of businesses as a whole.
Other prime motivations include scalability. As your firm grows, the flexibility afforded by cloud solutions enables you to develop and scale your infrastructure without significant investment.
In terms of IT security, cloud desktop solutions are better equipped to prevent the spread of viruses, by locking down individual profiles once a threat is detected. Disaster recovery benefits appeal to the tightly regulated professional services sector too. Secure, off-site, vendor-independent back-up facilities ensure you won’t suffer a critical loss of service in the event of an IT failure.
Through greater document control (and the consequent reduction in paper usage), businesses switching to the cloud are also seeing environmental benefits – alongside the increased team efficiencies created by anytime, anywhere access to key documents.
Different types of cloud solution
Cloud technology ensures there’s a solution to fit all types of business within the professional services space. Each technology naturally brings its own advantages.
Private cloud refers to a private network exclusive to your business, as opposed to the public cloud, which delivers services to multiple organisations.
Typically hosted in an external data centre, private cloud can also be delivered through an on-premise server – providing physical control over your infrastructure at a cost.
Hybrid cloud brings both private and public clouds into the mix, with services delivered through both platforms for maximum efficiency.
There’s also VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure), which hosts a desktop operating system on a centralised server in a data centre, and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), whereby hardware is provided by an external provider and managed on your behalf via the Internet.
A platform for the future
Digital disruption is impacting every industry and professional services is not immune. There’s no doubt it has been more resistant than other sectors, such as travel or indeed taxi driving – yet the ‘Uberisation’ of professional services is now gathering pace.
With new competition, the need to offer better service to clients has become a priority and many firms are looking to technology for inspiration and innovation. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one area in particular that is now attracting much interest.
As professional service firms look to adopt modern technology, the platform needed to support such technologies will need to evolve too. Security, connectivity, mobility and scalability will all be fundamental to ensure the required level of performance and resilience is in place to enable such modernisation. High maintenance, complex legacy systems will be a significant barrier, which is why moving to a cloud-based infrastructure is no longer a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’.
Written by Wayne Barber, Sales Director at Oosha. Exhibiting at Accountex 2018 on stand 228.