It seems like cloud computing has been at some kind of make-or-break moment since it first arrived on the scene in 2006. For example, it was said to be at a critical juncture during the rush to adopt it for big data usage in 2014. The most recent is the transition from legacy data warehouses to a hybrid cloud, which enables a company to stretch its existing data bases from an on-premise environment to a public cloud like AWS or Azure. Now the cloud is at another tipping point, but technology has very little to do with it.
This is not to say that the cloud lacks dynamics at this point. Container technology and edge computing are both making an impact. The new tipping point centers around the utility of the cloud.
Put simply, cloud technology has reached the stage at which it can give its users a competitive advantage through its ability to improve relationships with companies and between companies. The speed, accessibility and security of the cloud has moved it beyond the IT department to include everything from sales to marketing to finance to operations.
“Companies want to see a meaningful and measurable return on their tech investments,” according to a PwC report in Strategy + Business.
“As a result, many tend to focus on notching quick wins, such as digitizing a sales channel or making an internal process more efficient. But this only begins to get at the potential value at stake. In contrast, the most adept cloud operators constantly experiment and measure results in real-time, move forward, and shift to other areas without regret, creating the agility that feeds innovation.”
Moving Beyond IT
That wide-open approach is one of the reasons non-IT departments want in on the cloud action. For example, consider how it has helped sales departments during the height of the pandemic as well as in the current environment. The cloud connects remote offices, virtual offices, sales reps and support functions. It also allows seamless sharing of critical applications like CRM.
The economy did not slow down during the pandemic for most businesses outside of hospitality and the cloud was a catalyst in the ability for teams to stay informed in an unprecedented environment. It can limit lost connections and the consequential lost opportunities. For marketing, the real-time data and advanced analytics available in the cloud provides a critical look at the impact (or lack thereof) of marketing campaigns.
It also gets right to the heart of marketing’s purpose: customers. Marketers can better access customer intelligence and fill in the blanks in what used to be the guesswork around customer needs and preferences. The cloud can connect marketing to customers.
Benefits of the Cloud for HR and Payroll
Rather than being an ethereal high-tech concept, the dynamics of the cloud have also found their way to the workforce. One of the more innovative developments beyond the IT department can be found in the benefits the cloud is bringing its benefits to HR, payroll and other departments, resulting in innovations that improve the work experience across the company. As the workforce undergoes its own pandemic-driven change, cloud computing is keeping pace and creating frictionless technology sharing and development. The outcome is a better experience for the workforce.
“Deploying new technology at speed and scale is no easy feat,” states Red Hat’s Enterprisers Project. “As HR and IT have been historically siloed, each with different departmental priorities, the two departments have had to work closely together to ensure business as usual continues at the global level.
“Arguably the two most important departments for maintaining business continuity during the pandemic, both groups contribute complementary areas of expertise that are critical to addressing employee experience. The need to work together to overcome challenges, while collaborating and respecting one another, has never been greater.”
The Cloud In Action: Making Payday An Experience
To show how the cloud can work for the workforce, let’s take the case of a SaaS-based financial technology company that provides companies with the ability to enable early wage access for their employees. If employees want to get their wages before the scheduled payday, this technology knits together disparate payroll systems, enterprise verticals and mobile technology to deliver that request in real-time.
It is an incredibly complex B2B2C business and could arguably only be attempted via cloud technology. For example, for one employee at one company to take advantage of early wage access, the fintech at the core of this effort needs to sell to a partner, setup a complex data exchange, build three connected products (partner, employee, operations/support), launch and market to employees, make a balance available in the mobile app, integrate payment systems to send money instantly and fund the payment.
Now, the company that adopts the technology for their employees isn’t in it for the sake of offering a new shiny object. Early wage access (or on-demand pay) has proven to be a critical tool for companies to recruit and retain employees in a job market that has proven to be challenging. Tell a QSR that there’s a way to solve their workforce shortages and they would (and have) line up to have it. The company sees the value beyond the technology; but the technology creates the value. That value is the ability to turn the cold transaction of issuing a paycheck into an experience that enables an employee to use that paycheck as a flexible financial tool. That experience, as this article will show, has proven to be a game-changer for companies that have used it.
Early wage access: a complex issue
The complexity of early wage access demands the cloud and it demands that IT be involved, but not the sole driver. HR is involved, finance is involved, operations is involved, and payroll is involved.
For HR, this move toward an experience on payday is a marketing tool. But what if that company wanted to expend the pay experience even further? What if it wanted its managers to be able to issue a spot bonus to overachieving employees? Legacy systems would take two or three pay cycles to make that a reality. But the cloud-based SaaS approach makes in happen in real-time. And what if the company wanted to build off-cycle payments such as termination pay into its system? In the cloud, it’s automatic.
Pay experiences have also evolved to include rich mobile dashboards that allow employees to check their pay balance and save money from their paycheck as well as access it to address an unforeseen financial bind. SaaS-based platforms enable this expansion and it’s integration among partners.
Cloud-enabled payroll works
Results show that the cloud-enabled pay experience works. For example, employers using on-demand pay are keeping employees as much as 72 percent longer and hiring 52 percent faster. Employees are saving up to $1,200 a year on fees they would have had to pay in overdraft fees, late fees and pay day loan rates. It’s an example of how the cloud has become part of the fabric and culture of cross-departmental cooperation.
“The cloud’s flexibility enables business experimentation,” says a recent Accenture report: “It lets you spin up new environments instantly, try out several ideas at once, and see what’s working quickly and securely. It reduces or eliminates technical debt, freeing your organization from the shackles of your legacy estate.
“It means you can iterate faster, test out prototypes on demand and get real-time information to inform business decisions. And when the business needs to pivot quickly—such as in response to a global pandemic—it’s cloud that enables the necessary responsiveness, enabling you to push out new or updated products, services and experiences with unprecedented speed.”
Looking To The Future: Cloud HR and Payroll
This cloud-driven combination of IT, HR and payroll is just one example of how the cloud will be driven by use cases rather than technology advances. As the PwC report states, “if organizations think the cloud is about moving data to slash IT costs, they have a problem…The cloud should be abut reconceiving the way business operates.”