Analytics and business intelligence are among the top technology-priorities for retail CIOs. A recent survey by the analyst firm Research found that 92% of CIOs and IT professionals feel the Cloud is good for business, although only 31% admit to having adopted it . Cloud-based services are popular with small and medium sized businesses (SMB) where IT budgets are minimal and retailers don’t have the appetite for large-scale or long-term business intelligence implementation projects. Although SaaS services are being adopted by bigger retail organizations – whose IT spend areas are planned and budgets not constrained – to help CIOs reduce licensing and infrastructure costs and trim staff requirements, it appears that the larger the company, the greater the resistance to move to Cloud. There are compelling reasons, however, why the benefits of Cloud, particularly in the context of Retail Analytics, will be impossible to ignore.
1. Reduced costs
With the Cloud, you only pay for what you need. Waste vis a vis overheads are eliminated, offering financial flexibility. ‘Virtualisation’, thus, becomes an operating expense rather than capital expenditure, minimising bureaucracy.
With companies looking for ways to be more responsive to customers needs, organizations want a flexible infrastructure. With the Cloud, investments in expensive infrastructure-maintenance, back-office tasks, hardware and software are minimized, leaving IT organization free to focus on their main task – run the business.
Perhaps the finest example of flexibility is the growth of hybrid clouds within enterprises. Hybrid offers companies greater flexibility, allowing use of the public Cloud at times of peak demand (e.g. retailers during the holiday season or for large data analysis projects), eliminating the need for over-provision, enabling quick response-times to changes driven by business opportunities. Employees can access data and services via smartphones, laptops and netbooks from anywhere. And, thanks to the new services in the Cloud, the ability to collaborate on files and documents simultaneously is now a reality, reducing emails back and forth.
4. Big Data
A buzz-phrase today, Big Data, is shorthand for the ability of large companies to conduct advanced analyses on their databases. Keeping up with information on customer data has been difficult to manage in the past. The Cloud allows large companies not only to store data, but the necessary computing power to sift through tons of unstructured data, and thereby stay ahead of competition through advanced analytical prowess – hitherto the domain of scientists and esoteric-knowledge specialists.
5. Development of Software
According to Salesforce, software development can be up to four times faster on the Cloud, offering significant economies of scale. Best practices can be established and documented for beginners, virtual machines can be deployed, and software installed and tested much faster. In fact, only the Cloud can provide the large testing and development environments that large organizations need.
6. Better Upgradability
According to a recent survey, up to 18 working days are spent per month on patches and updates in the traditional mode. The larger the company, the more time and money spent on these tasks. With the Cloud, the CIO can become a valuable partner in business development, rather than a firefighter who spends time updating servers!
7. Greater Safety
Many CIOs perceive the Cloud as a security risk. Large companies are worried not only about customer data, but being compliant with various regulatory regimes. However, the best security practices can be built-in to the Cloud from the very start, including monitoring and continuous auditing. Which means any irregular activity, such as hacking, can be detected and rectified almost immediately. Since Cloud platforms perform a limited set of scalable tasks, there is a high degree of standardization in terms of computer hardware, network equipment, software applications and operating systems making for a controlled environment that is easier to secure.
8. Easier Management
A digital panel shows the status of virtually everything that runs on the Cloud infrastructure, allowing a CIO to identify and resolve problems quickly – difficult to achieve with traditional infrastructure. The cloud is easier to handle but business-critical applications need vigilance, especially in multi-tenanted environments where organizations want their data and applications to be controlled by them alone.
9. More Business
The Cloud changes practically everything in the IT organization. In addition to developing strategies to ensure close alignment with current and future business needs, IT departments can finally become an asset to the organization, instead of a leak in the bottom line. Decentralization increases business flexibility and streamlines disaster recovery and network. New approaches to scalable application computing simplify the IT infrastructure by merging many essential elements, including storage, load balancing, database and caching. Unlike traditional infrastructures, the Cloud provides an architecture in which additional capabilities are added by “scaling horizontal” helping not only prevent the loss of jobs, but making businesses more agile and aligned to objectives.
10. The ‘Green’ Dimension
There is also a green aspect to the Cloud that can help companies achieve their CSR business objectives. By eliminating the need for companies to invest in setting up their own data centres, not only is material waste reduced by way of less hardware but fewer computing resources are required on the desktop. In addition, less infrastructure on site means less equipment to insure.
Interestingly, in over a decade of cutting-edge experience in the business, Zensar has found that their Cloud- based pre-built business intelligence solution – Sales & Operations Analytics – has helped retailers significantly reduce Capex costs and realize quick wins thanks to swift go-live implementation. This SaaS offering, hosted on Cloud, offers retailers deeper insights into their operations, enabling them to make better business decisions in real time. The benefits of measuring data from across multiple dimensions such as location, product, time and customer helps identify the factors influencing product sales and the most prominent touch-points.
SaaS enables access to the best-of- breed ready-to-go analytics at less than 10% of on-premise outlays by boosting sales productivity, improving operational efficiency and managing stock-out situations. Driven by ongoing demand, Zensar has created over 50+ Retail-centric preconfigured solution packages that can save an organisation a minimum of one year of costly and ongoing effort.
SaaS on Cloud is emerging as the most cost-effective and easy to implement analytics solution covering over 90% of reporting requirements and providing a 360 degrees overview of the entire retail operation.