Cloud computing has often been called a fad, but many experts agree that it is the future of business. While cloud adoption on the continent has been relatively slow, SAP believes that African businesses will inevitably see the benefits and take the leap.
According to Mike Ettling, Global Head of Cloud and On Premise for Human Resources at SAP, cloud services in Africa still has some way to go, but the continent will likely see accelerated growth in this area- “The cloud opportunity is akin to what the mobile phone opportunity was in Africa. We will see a similar skip-trend in business software, and we will see a skip regarding on-premise hosting. Mobile technology has laid the foundation for that – if can you access 3G you can access the cloud.
However, Ettling is well aware of the challenges. “I’m not naïve about the challenges. What would really turbo charge cloud in Africa, is if you host in one African country you would be compliant with the rest of the continent. All the dynamics are lining up for it to be a big force in business.”
Asked by IT News Africa if the continent is on par with the rest of the world in terms of availability of cloud services, Ettling said, “It is still lagging behind. The U.S is leading adoption of cloud, and in the UK the government is forcing many businesses to make use of it. It is lagging in Africa, but the potential is there to have rapid adoption – the same as the mobile phone space. It is only a matter of time, and will depend on how the data privacy thing shapes up – which could become a barrier.”
He pointed out that the focus should not be on the technology, but on the development of cloud solutions and how the technology is being used.
“It is not a technology story, but a development story. Africa needs to skip the legacy way of doing things, and what cloud brings to companies, are a standardized process model – which is beneficial. If companies adopt the cloud, they will have the same performance management services that some of the top Silicon Valley companies are using. Cloud also speeds up economic development and has a knock-on effect in the company.”
Ettling’s area of expertise is Human Resources, and he highlighted the impact cloud has had on the practice.
“Before cloud, Human Resources had nothing to standardize the practice, but HR can’t afford the diverse process models – a lot of it is driven by culture. Innovation is the second reason why cloud will be beneficial for it.”
“Over the last 10 years, HR has seen no innovation in the technology space. We have now all these trends coming in, and companies need more innovation and the ability to deploy it quickly. HR is moving more to the cloud in a bid to cope with five generations in the workforce. Millennials are shaping the workforce, and on-boarding is actually a social activity, and software needs to enable that. Cloud is bringing more parity to the workforce – which is going to be key in promoting engagement.”
Looking to the future, Ettling is of the opinion that the hybrid concept of public-private hosted cloud will become more prevalent.
“There is just too much investment in the on-premises environment. Hybrid will be here for a long while and is driven by economics. In any SME business, cloud will be more dominant, and you can have sophistication from any location. In emerging markets, the company-in-a-box model will be very big.”
He also predicts that cloud will disrupt traditional models such as outsourcing and system integration. “The cloud attachment rating is about 4 to 1, and will cause fundamental disruption. Demand for it has been exploding, and I can see the disruption happening already – and will continue to drive forward.”
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor