Cloud computing is the buzzword of the moment in the IT industry and is viewed by companies as a viable, cost-efficient way to address some of their most important needs. But what can it do for you?
Document management, security or knowledge sharing, the cloud seems to be the Holy Grail to IT professionals. But one word that’s rarely associated with cloud computing is marketing, and as a marketer, you might be questioning the relevance to you. What have technical infrastructure and architecture got to do with marketing?
Marketing is one of the last functional areas within large organisations to adopt technology and leverage its benefits. But at the same time, marketing is under ever increasing pressure to fulfil a more strategic role in delivering the company’s success: driving revenues, decreasing costs (do more with less) and being accountable. It’s ripe for marketing automation, and while traditionally marketing organisations have spent less than 1 per cent of their budget on technology, today that figure is closer to 3 per cent and growing rapidly.
And this brings us back to cloud computing. Marketing automation software is no longer a nice to have, and for organisations that plan to remain competitive as we head into the future, it’s an absolute must.
What is the ‘cloud’?
Simply put, the ‘cloud’ is just another word for the internet. Cloud computing comprises services and applications that are hosted and accessed through the internet. All the computing infrastructure and intelligence (software applications, data and servers) are owned and managed by a third party remotely and accessed via the internet using a web browser. Google Mail is a good example of cloud computing. You access your email via your web browser. Email is stored ‘in the cloud’ and you don’t need to download any software.
Then within cloud computing, you have software-as-a-service, or SaaS, where a software company provides an application to customers as a service (as opposed to a product), on demand, delivered via the cloud
Why should SaaS matter to marketers?
Many of the new CRM and marketing automation software vendors operate via a SaaS model of delivery. Aprimo is a perfect example. Its marketing studio software solution enables marketers to more effectively manage marketing workflows, assets, campaigns and suppliers. And this is delivered via the SaaS model, which make perfect sense for marketers. Here are four reasons why:
1. It’s cost-effective, flexible and easily accessible
You are no longer dependent on the annual capital spending plan to expand your digital technology capabilities. Nor are you hamstrung by the 18-month queue of IT projects. Today your strategies and tactics can be automated and enabled by selecting the right platform and tools in the cloud. The applications are subscription-based, allowing companies to pay only for what they need, and no licence fee means that initial costs are lower. The SaaS provider also manages the infrastructure, which decreases marketing’s reliance on an already over-extended IT department and it also means lower total cost of ownership.
2. It gets you to market fast
The speed with which SaaS solutions can be deployed is extremely useful to marketers. A SaaS deployment should be complete in weeks, not months or years as is standard for traditional software deployments. Time to productivity is fast, and the marketers see returns on short term horizons — months, not years.
3. It’s less risky
Compared to the fast pace with which marketers (and their customers) operate, traditional IT departments can often feel agonizingly slow to respond. IT departments tend to be cautious about entering into agreements with a ‘new’ vendor because of additional hardware costs, software license issues, etc. So lines of business must work hard to convince the powers that be that any new investment is worthwhile. And this could take some time and often, the one thing a marketer does not have is time. That’s why the SaaS model offers a lot of potential to marketers.
Because there’s no software to download, no software licensing to negotiate and the IT infrastructure is taken care of, it’s much easier for the marketer to make a business case to the IT guys for giving it a try. It’s flexible, easier to escape from, has a lower cost and, overall, is a lower risk option for the organisation.
4. It’s automatically updated
And when it comes to upgrades of the software it’s all managed by the provider. New releases and feature enhancements are deployed centrally which means that users of SaaS-based applications can always be certain that they are using the latest version of the software. No precious time needs to be wasted rolling out new versions.
Warren Knight thanks imediaconnection