2016 Collaboration and Communications Forecast: Cloudy with Outbreaks of Hybrid?

T. Banting
T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Many enterprises are so hampered by traditional, inflexible IT models that they’re eager to jump into the cloud and start reaping the benefits.
  • Some customers still have security and privacy concerns, and will continue to err on the side of caution by favoring private cloud or on-premises deployments.

Having attended two large industry events this month, it is clear that public cloud services are top of mind for many customers and a trending topic for 2016. Indeed, both Enterprise Connect and Jive World abounded with customers adopting public cloud collaboration and communication services. Cloud adoption in 2016 seems more tangible compared to the hype of last year and the momentum is staggering. While customers believe the cloud offers lower total cost of ownership, productivity improvements and increased flexibility, I also discovered two other themes worth mentioning.

  • “It’s not about cost savings.” Large numbers of customers told me they saw public cloud services as a means of improving agility and competitiveness, not lowering cost. Indeed, some customers believed that their operational costs were higher in the first year for cloud solutions when compared to on-premises deployments. In some cases, there were additional costs associated with the cloud such as network optimization (to reduce latency and congestion) plus the sourcing of new headsets, handsets and smartphones, as some were incompatible.
  • “IT gets in my way.” Quite a number of prospects told me that public cloud services helped them circumvent their own IT organization. While Current Analysis has previously reported on the decentralization of the IT budget and the democratization of the buying decision, this degree of brusqueness took me by surprise. A more subtle way of describing the conversation would be that the cloud helps to streamline and simplify enterprise collaboration and communications. The appeal of public cloud services for some is that it offers little barrier to entry, easy implementation and provisioning, and up-to-date upgrades without outages.

However, there are always two sides to every story. Public cloud can offer a strategic business tool that facilitates operational agility and accelerated innovation; however, some customers offer a different perspective, largely born from fear and concerns over security. Despite being told by a large U.S. defense agency that its risk assessment of a particular cloud vendor ticked all of its boxes (and was JITC certified), a well-known multinational retail corporation said that security remained the primary driver for its own private cloud implementation. Other attendees added that they lacked the internal resources to deploy private cloud deployments and that those in heavily regulated industries still have security and privacy concerns associated with public cloud and would err on the side of caution.

So, the key takeaway from both events was this: while many enterprises are aware of the potential benefits of public cloud services, vendors still need to improve their messaging around transparency, security and compliance, as these business issues still continue to hamper adoption. Furthermore, there is a need (and clear opportunity) for more stringent assessments that highlight existing infrastructure and equipment compatibility.

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