CFOs Weigh In on Benefits of Cloud Computing

By Christina Camara

A majority of top finance executives in US companies foresee Cloud computing lowering costs and helping their businesses succeed in the near future, according to a new survey - The Business Value of Cloud Reporting: A Survey of Senior Finance Executives
The survey - sponsored by Google and conducted by CFO Research, the publisher of CFO magazine - is based on 310 electronic responses from senior finance executives working at large US-based companies.
Because CFOs are increasingly becoming key players in making IT decisions based on potential savings and the generation of new business, survey researchers wanted find out how CFOs are feeling about Cloud technology. Overall, survey results show that the majority of finance executives are impressed with Cloud computing and see it as part of their company's future: 
  • 76 percent said a "solid Cloud computing strategy" will be important for their company's success within the next twelve to eighteen months. 
  • 52 percent say their companies are in the process of considering or implementing a Cloud-based system.
  • 40 percent of respondents said their companies consistently include Cloud-based options alongside on-premise options when evaluating new systems.
  • 12 percent say they already prefer Cloud-based systems over traditional on-site servers.
As is to be expected, the cost-savings associated with Cloud technology is important to respondents:
  • 71 percent said their largest Cloud computing project resulted in lower hardware costs.
  • 66 percent said they saved money on system backup and data recovery.
  • 66 percent noted a reduction in software costs.
  • 59 percent saved money on labor costs associated with IT.
  • 64 percent said complete implementation of Cloud technology would lower operational costs by up to 20 percent.
Matt Surka, research editor at CFO Research, said executives also envision Cloud computing helping IT departments focus on what is most important. "The Cloud certainly offers cost savings, but finance executives are most interested in using the Cloud to redirect IT resources to high-value activities - not strip resources out of IT."
IT-related findings include: 
  • 68 percent said Cloud-based systems would "meaningfully improve" IT's ability to focus on high-value activities, such as setting corporate strategies. 
  • 30 percent of respondents at companies with Cloud-based systems in place say the Cloud exceeded their expectations for improving employee mobility, and 35 percent say it improved productivity.
  • 52 percent are including Cloud-based systems in their IT purchasing decisions.
  • 68 percent of respondents cited security as an obstacle in implementing Cloud technology.  
First Steps
Florence de Borja, on, said that "IT decision makers should get hands-on experience with Cloud computing to be successful." Staff training is also vital to successful implementation. Another important piece of advice from de Borjas is to "assign a group to study various public Cloud platforms to learn the Cloud's capabilities."
"Adoption of Cloud-based systems should, of course, be preceded by careful planning and due diligence, as with any IT or outsourcing project," according to the CFO Research report. "Our research indicates, however, that, if properly implemented, Cloud computing has a solid base of benefits to offer to most companies."
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