(Editor’s Note: Today’s post is brought to you by our friends at Kronos, the global leader in delivering workforce management solutions in the cloud. Over 12,000 organizations run in the KronosCloud including Briggs & Stratton, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, and the Columbus Regional Airport Authority. Enjoy the post!)
There’s lots of talk in the business world about “the cloud.” Companies say we should “move to the cloud” or “store stuff in the cloud”, etc. But I wonder if everyone knows what that means. Honestly, I have to admit, there are times when I’m not completely sure what it means.
The origin of the “cloud computing” concept is somewhat up for grabs. Some say AT&T coined the term in a 1994 video. Others point to a document from none other than Western Union dating all the way back to 1965. Regardless of where the term originated, over the years “the cloud” has become mainstream business nomenclature. In fact, I think it’s become so mainstream that there are times when we’re afraid to ask the question for fear we won’t look smart and cool. If human resources is going to embrace technology, we have to understand the concepts. So I thought I would find out everything human resources needs to know about the cloud.
To help us understand what the cloud is (and isn’t), I asked our friends at Kronos for help. Leo Daley is director of services marketing and author of the Working Smarter Café. Leo and I started this conversation about the cloud during the KronosWorks conference last month, and he graciously offered to share his expertise.
Leo, let’s start with the elevator answer. What’s the one sentence response to “What’s the cloud?”
The cloud is an analogy for software used via the internet, so any time you use gMail, Google, Twitter, or Facebook, you’re using the cloud.
Business articles continue to tell us that the future of technology is in the cloud. Is “the cloud” really the future? Why?
It’s simply easier and more cost-effective for organizations to use software applications via the cloud than to house and manage them in on-premise data centers with IT personnel. On-premise data centers are expensive – organizations need the physical location, hardware, a network, security, and personnel to maintain all of it, including many enterprise applications.
In many ways, enterprises are best served by focusing IT talent on their customer-facing systems (Point-of-Sale (POS) in Retail, Electronic health record (EHR) systems in healthcare, and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems for manufacturing and other businesses). Those are the mission-critical systems that can differentiate an enterprise from competitors by enabling customer-facing employees to deliver the best service. For mission-support systems such as workforce management, it’s more efficient to let a vendor manage the system in the cloud.
For an organization, what are the benefits of being in the cloud?
For enterprise software like Human Capital Management (HCM), cloud computing benefits include little to no capital expense for hardware or software licenses and faster implementations. The reasons our clients cite include because the cloud environment is available quickly, the system/database is configured correctly, we provide regular upgrades, and the application support is from application experts who do it every day.
Mike Evans, vice president of IT and Jeri Hamilton, director of benefits and employment at Baptist Community Services said it best. “Kronos has deep expertise in the cloud and in the long-term care industry, both of which enabled us to expedite our implementation and quickly achieve measurable results. Kronos is alleviating so many aspects of managing our workforce, freeing us to focus even more on providing quality resident care.”
I’ve seen some articles about security and the cloud. Is the cloud secure?
With the cloud security tools available today, the cloud is arguably more secure than on-premise software. However, it is imperative that buyers of cloud computing solutions fully vet the security protocols of potential cloud providers.
I would imagine that one of the reasons companies might be reluctant to move into the cloud is because they don’t hear about their competitors being in the cloud. Are there organizations out there really moving everything to the cloud?
Yes and no. It’s possible for startups to establish and run their entire IT infrastructure from the cloud including email, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Finance, Sales Force Automation (SFA), Marketing, HCM, etc.
For established organizations with investments in existing, on-premise IT infrastructures, it may not make economic sense to “move everything to the cloud.” For these organizations, the time to consider cloud is:
- During a major upgrade of software or the hardware running it
- When they reach a reasonable end of economic life for those in-house components
One other consideration for moving an application to the cloud is to provide additional business agility and to focus stressed IT resources on mission critical in-house applications. Kronos has a short video on evaluating cloud services. You can view it here.
Last question: If my organization isn’t already in the cloud, are we doomed?
Of course not. Hopefully your IT infrastructure will not make or break your organization. Cloud computing overall is still a toddler in terms of growth potential, but some Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are more mature and growing rapidly. For example, Gartner reports SaaS based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems accounted for 41% of all CRM systems sold in 2013.
You’ve got time.
Unfortunately, we’re out of time with today’s post. My thanks to Leo and the Kronos team for sharing their knowledge. Be sure to check out their cloud services page. They have lots of great information. My personal fave is the download “Is it time for cloud services?”
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Now that we know what it is, the cloud is definitely part of our business future. As human resources professionals, we need to understand what the cloud can do for us. Otherwise, it could hinder our success.1