Companies looking at ways to improve their sales and marketing departments by boosting efficiency and productivity, and enabling mobile employees to collaborate effectively with others within the business may find that cloud computing technology offers a wealth of different solutions to help them achieve this.
Recent figures from IDC
revealed that investment in the cloud is set to expand from £850 million in 2008 to £5.2 billion by 2013 as firms look to take advantage of services such as Google Apps, cloud-based CRM systems and productivity tools such as SharePoint.
Decision-makers are showing a growing interest in migrating to the cloud, particularly in light of numerous solutions on offer to marketing and sales departments. Many marketing teams are switching to hosted customer relationship management (CRM) systems, such as those offered by Salesforce and Oracle.
The move towards Cloud-based CRM was recently highlighted by a survey of IT managers at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) conducted by ENISA, which revealed that 52.8 per cent of respondents identified this as the IT application most likely to be outsourced to a cloud-based provider.
Michael Corbett, chairman of the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals, recently highlighted some of the advantages of outsourcing this element of a business, saying: "Speed and flexibility are the biggest benefit customers see in these solutions."
The cloud may also offer marketing departments the chance to make the most of the rise of social media channels.
Coca Cola recently recognised this when it used Salesforce.com solutions to link up to 700,000 employees and partners.
Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts said at the recent Dreamforce conference: "To any CEO who's sceptical at all, you have to create a social enterprise today, you have to be totally connected with everyone who touches your brand," something cloud computing solutions such as Salesforce Chatter might make it easier for firms to achieve.
Sales teams are also benefitting as organisations look to the cloud to improve their business performance. According to the Cisco Business Heroes Barometer, 72 per cent of companies classed as 'heroes' because they increased their revenue last year invested in technology to support mobile and flexible working.
Richard Taylor, UK partner for business consultancy firm the Birchman Group, highlighted the importance of the cloud for achieving this, saying: "Cost is important but the most important thing is the fact that the workforce is becoming very, very mobile.
"I'm based in the office in London at the moment, next week I'll be in Barcelona - but I could be in a hotel one day [and] off at a client site the next day," he stated.
He explained that using services such as Google Apps enables him and colleagues in other locations to collaborate on documents and access them through a variety of devices, from desktop computers to iPhones and tablets.
With the recent Small business technology: Cloud Computing on the Rise report published at SmallBusinessComputing.com showing that 40 per cent of SMEs around the world plan to invest in cloud services within the next three years, firms hoping to end up in Cisco's 'heroes' list may want to consider migrating to the cloud.