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In the early days of cloud, many services were sold primarily on a rationale of cost-reduction; moving to the cloud would reduce upfront investments, decrease the burden of managing IT infrastructure and give you lower operating costs than your old on-premise solution. Now, though, things have changed. CEOs and CIOs are no longer asking how cloud can help them save money, but how cloud can help them better innovate, optimise and compete.

It’s a point taken up by Alexander Scibberas in a recent blog post for Capgemini. Scibberas says that the CIO argument to the board needs to go further than the usual cost reduction argument and paint a picture of ‘cloud as a business enabler: a means to be more innovative, agile, to generate more revenue, create new revenue models and introduce business advantage through insight.’

Meanwhile, a recent report from Forrester notes that ‘CIOs are increasingly using public cloud services to enable business innovation’ arguing that while SaaS and PaaS can help companies do old things in new ways, the real power of cloud comes when firms ‘transform their operations and rethink how they create customer value.’

These thoughts are backed up by IDG’s 2018 Cloud Computing Report, which indicates that, rather than cost savings, enterprises are looking to their cloud investments to help them meet business demands for speed, agility and responsiveness. Asked to rank the top business objectives responsible for driving investment in cloud initiatives, respondents to IDG’s survey most often cited improving the speed of IT service delivery and increasing flexibility to react to changing market conditions, far over and above simple cost savings.

Subhead: PaaS and citizen developers

How can enterprises use the cloud to drive this kind of agility and innovation? Partly by harnessing the advantages of the cloud as a platform for the development of disruptive, innovative apps. By adopting a Platform as a Service (PaaS) platform for development, companies can develop, iterate and deploy apps at speed, bringing them into internal operations or out to customers faster. With no need to build infrastructure, there’s less risk and a smaller investment, enabling developers to focus on their core work, while access to ready-made components and APIs means there’s less groundwork to put in place before transforming innovation into code.

Cloud also changes who can develop these apps and how they operate, opening up the way for more ‘citizen developers;’ non-developers from business units who, through low-code or no-code development platforms, can bring in feedback and ideas from their teams.

This can work as part of a shift towards a DevOps methodology, where those who develop apps and those who operate and use them can come together to share their expertise, constantly iterating and improving as applications are released and updated. The more agile the development process and the more disruptive the apps, the more they work into the agility of the company as a whole.

Beyond this, the cloud is enabling a wider range of businesses to turn data into insight, using machine learning and analytics to better understand customer needs and market trends. It’s empowering enterprises to streamline their operations and teams to work more closely across departments or even irrespective of their geographical location.

It’s allowing businesses to redefine their relationships with customers through more personal, intelligent services and new customer experiences. These aren’t IT priorities but business priorities – and ones that go far beyond efficiencies and savings. In giving businesses a platform to try new ideas, see what works and scale fast, the cloud is giving them the means to compete and grow.

To learn more about how Salesforce supports citizen developers, read the article on Salesforce.com here.