By Andy Bird, CEO of Oracle Platinum Partner, Inoapps

For the board of any medium sized business, the pursuit of rapid growth is the primary aim. However, such expansion often generates its own growing pains. One such pinch point is where organisations start to outgrow their existing IT systems, particularly on the financial side. In reviewing their back-office ERP technology, many such organisations discover that rather than delivering a set of efficient streamlined core business processes, their systems are subject to lengthy upgrades, legacy customisations, and complex integrations. All these require significant additional expenditure, management time and ultimately can thwart any growth opportunities that do present themselves.

The impact on cash flow of IT downtime can be significant and yet at times of rapid growth, optimal cash flow is a pre-requisite. Very quickly, an organisation’s board needs to decide how best to refresh their IT estate. Their dilemma is how to achieve this effectively without crippling disruption or incurring punitive upfront costs. In an ideal world, of course, they would like to select the right IT to support business growth, whilst seeking to reduce back-office costs. Not that long ago that would just have been wishful thinking though.

However, a solution is now at hand with cloud computing. This is where systems are held on a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet. In other words users don’t need to fund the costs of storing or managing data on their own local server as previously. They can access the data as and when they need it and only pay for what they use.

As a highly scalable and extremely secure solution, cloud computing can totally re-balance a company’s technology investment, as it enables management to fundamentally alter how their organisation utilizes and accesses the technology they need. In addition, as modern cloud applications are built specifically to exploit all the latest innovations and capabilities on which businesses depend they will both accelerate and optimize a company’s business processes. As it is the primary cloud vendor maintaining the systems, users also have the reassurance that they are always using the latest version. Better still the lead times to refresh technology are also a fraction of what they once were too — so the benefits can be on hand quicker than many might think.

Most importantly, the cloud model enables companies to release and redeploy the significant budgetary expenditure that they save to other key business areas such as developing new product innovations, introducing more flexible mobile working or creating fresh customer-facing growth opportunities. Most boards will find this an extremely persuasive driver on its own even before you get to the many other advantages.

There aren’t that many pitfalls either. Probably the most important thing to remember is to keep things simple and find one primary cloud provider to cover all likely needs. One certainly does not want to be trying to integrate a myriad of different cloud solutions from a wide range of different vendors. Larger vendors such as Oracle are able to overcome this problem by offering a whole suite of business applications from financials and HCM though to CRM and social apps.

Empowered business leaders now recognise that modern cloud applications are explicitly designed to exploit the latest IT innovations and are capable of delivering streamlined systems across all core business processes. Better still this is a technology that lets midsized companies refresh their IT whilst cutting out unproductive IT costs and driving innovation. This is an incredibly strong business case and whilst there is always inertia in the progress of new technology there are many good reasons why cloud applications have significant board appeal and that I am sure that these will act as a tipping point for those looking to move to the cloud.