As digital disrupters like Uber, Careem, and Airbnb continue to shake up the region’s competitive landscape, business decision makers across the Gulf are coming under mounting pressure to optimise budgets, standardise processes, and achieve greater efficiencies.

At the same time, the fact that the region is home to the largest youth population in the world means that these same businesses must find a way to ensure their products and services are accessible anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

While emerging technologies such as the internet of Things, cognitive systems, and virtual/augmented reality all have a role to play in facilitating such ambitions, it is cloud that will underpin much of the region’s infrastructure.

As well as providing on-demand access to valuable compute and storage capacity, cloud provides organisations with easy access to the very latest business applications and systems, anytime and anywhere. As such, its use will be critical for ensuring the omni-channel presence that consumers are increasingly demanding.

Cloud also has a key role to play in enabling the successful implementation of Big Data analytics, as such projects can be a huge drain on compute and storage capacity. And businesses can also leverage cloud solutions to provide the critical support required for their IoT deployments.

IT decision makers have always believed that cloud adoption is essential, largely due to cost savings, the ability to scale, and the capacity to provision services faster than ever before. But decision makers from the business side are now also seeing the value that cloud has to offer — and for a whole host of different reasons.

The general consensus among financial decision makers, for example, is that cloud adoption offers their organisations much better value in terms of the services they actually use and allows for better security and faster deployment.

For marketing decision makers, the perceived value largely derives from the unfettered access that cloud provides to advanced workloads and the previously unattainable levels of flexibility and mobility that this facilitates.

Digital transformation initiatives require decision makers across the board to absorb technology into the very fabric of their businesses, and it is becoming increasingly clear that business and IT decision makers can no longer operate in silos.

So how can business decision makers ensure they derive maximum value from the cloud solutions they procure?

Many of the functionalities that need to be accessed by marketing and finance are available as a service, so enterprises should search out the best providers in the market and evaluate whether their solutions fit the allocated budget and can be integrated with existing systems.

Ensuring close collaboration with the IT department is key to this last part, as the organisation’s internal IT team is best placed to ensure that cloud solutions are integrated properly and that they comply with any protocols and standards set by the organisation itself or the wider industry.

Business decision makers must also resist the temptation to brush security off as IT’s problem. Each department head needs to work with IT to define precisely what workloads are critical for the division, determine what can and cannot be accessed by employees, and ensure that all systems are kept up to date and secure.

And this attitude should apply equally to both cloud solutions and on-premise systems. Security breaches can inflict considerable damage to a brand — both financial and reputationwise — so there is a clear onus on department heads to work with IT and HR on bolstering the security awareness and preparedness of all relevant employees.

Expectations around the provision cloud services can differ wildly, so it is important that stringent service-level agreements (SLAs) are put in place with any cloud services providers to ensure that expectations in terms of updates, support, migration, and portability are suitably met.

The IT and legal departments can help in this regard, but developing a clear understanding of cloud metrics will be useful for determining the cost of utilising cloud technologies and the recurring operational expenses that will be borne by the department in question.

Cloud solutions only represent a reasonable investment if the user experience is seamless, so it is advisable to secure input from the whole team regarding functionalities and to formulate a suitable change-management plan. This is particularly important for preventing any drop in service levels and productivity.

By taking these aspects into consideration, business decision makers will ultimately find themselves better positioned to unlock the full potential that cloud has to offer in today’s ultra-connected digital world.

— The columnist is group vice-president and regional managing director for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey at global ICT market intelligence and advisory firm International Data Corporation (IDC) He can be contacted via Twitter @JyotiIDC