The cloud is considered a key component to a more cost effective and efficient business. Yet, European businesses are quickly realising just how multi-faceted the “cloud” can be, and its potential to also fuel business innovation.

Cloud service capabilities continue to develop and grow. IDC forecasts that “more than 70% of enterprise IT organisations will commit to hybrid cloud architectures by 2017, driving the rate of change in IT organisations.”

Previously, the choice of which cloud model to adopt, has largely been dominated by the industry a company is operating in. However, more and more organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of adopting a hybrid cloud platform.

A properly deployed cloud platform can be utilised to achieve business growth and increase competiveness. Improvements can be seen in line with business models, intelligence and processes, as well as unlocking the ability to enable new services and technologies, crucial to gaining deeper insight into data and access to new customers.

Organisations should view hybrid cloud as the next progressive step in cloud technology, through its inclusion of cognitive computing and data analytics, greater flexibility, scalability and the choice of central management, all assured by a secure environment. As a result, hybrid platforms will help ensure that the billions already spent on information technology (IT) will not be wasted.

Considering this alongside an organisation’s growing data volumes, hybrid cloud enables businesses to combine and analyse data streams coming from various locations. In order to meet their distinct needs, businesses are increasingly turning to the Cloud. From analysis of social media sentiment, to the development of innovative fin-tech technologies, Cloud is giving businesses the flexibility to remain competitive in an increasingly complex landscape. As the digital workplace continues to evolve, this is helping businesses transform to meet new organisational needs.

A great example of business transformation is retailer Shop Direct – one of the largest online retailers in the UK. Shop direct is using a hybrid cloud platform to provide customers with a wide range of innovative, personalised financial service products to help make its world famous brands even more affordable to customers. In addition, the platform helps Shop Direct build on its cloud strategy, which has already driven significant levels of flexibility enabling it to respond better to the market and demand to drive business growth.

It is easy to see how operating in today’s digital world has allowed for customers to become increasingly demanding. As a result, hybrid cloud platforms have become a vital part of enabling future innovation. The marketplace is not defined by technology companies, but influenced by the end-user or customer. IT infrastructure has become the engine of a business, and as such, organisations need to support the shift to hybrid, in order to innovate, accelerate growth and stay one step ahead of the competition.

By Sebastian Krause, general manager, IBM Cloud Europe