Medium-sized companies and the Cloud – Have SMEs missed the boat?

Analysts, business managers and IT managers agree that the digitisation of business processes, customer products and services will become the decisive factor in competitiveness and business success in the future. Experts confirm that increasing digitisation improves workflows and structures. Digitisation is a particularly strong driver for the development of new customer solutions and services. What does this mean for companies?

Those who want to benefit from digitisation must create the necessary conditions for it. A review of the existing IT function usually reveals the keys for change. Digitisation is not only about technology and hardware, but also about how and where a company’s IT capabilities (people, software, hardware) can best be integrated into its business model. As a result, many companies no longer rely on classic centralised IT teams with local data centres. Instead, they use cloud technologies that access software, data and servers via the internet,  anchoring the IT function closer to the business. 

On behalf of KPMG, Bitkom Research determined which companies use cloud technologies and how. For this representative survey, executives with responsibilities in  information technology (IT) departments, top management or the boards of directors of 552 companies with 20 or more employees were interviewed. The survey results are documented in the study Cloud Monitor 2022. The results show that two years of the Corona pandemic have driven cloud use. Nevertheless, there is still growth potential.

84 per cent of the companies surveyed now use computing services from the cloud – in the previous year it was 82 per cent. In 2016, it was only 65 per cent. Another 13 per cent of the companies are currently discussing cloud deployment or have already planned it. Only 3 per cent of the companies surveyed were completely opposed to cloud computing.  

“The survey results show that large companies are pursuing digital transformation processes at a significantly higher speed than medium-sized companies,”

Markus Wissing, Lead System & Enterprise Architecture at TecAlliance

Have SMEs secured their place in the cloud?

Companies using cloud computing understand it as the demand-oriented use of IT services such as software, storage and computing power via data networks. These can include internal company intranets (private cloud computing) or the public internet (public cloud computing). 67 per cent of the companies surveyed used private cloud implementations. 47 per cent used public cloud offerings.

Existing cloud users want to run an average of around 61 per cent of their applications from the cloud as early as 2025. (It was 52 per cent in the previous year.) Among large companies with 2,000 or more employees, the figure went down to 72 per cent from 74 per cent in the previous year.

Around 40 per cent of cloud users (31 per cent in 2021) are currently pursuing a cloud-first strategy in which cloud solutions take precedence over alternatives. Nine per cent are even pursuing a cloud-only strategy with the aim of migrating all systems to the cloud in the long term.

To drive the cloud transformation, companies ideally will have their own teams or units (such as a cloud centre of excellence) or a dedicated digitisation unit. The survey shows that small companies under 100 employees do not have the corresponding resources, and medium-sized companies with fewer than 2,000 employees only extremely rarely do. On the other hand, large companies with more than 2,000 employees doubled their digitisation or cloud teams within the previous year.

These figures make people sit up and take notice. “The survey results show that large companies are pursuing digital transformation processes at a significantly higher speed than medium-sized companies,” Markus Wissing, Lead System & Enterprise Architecture at TecAlliance, points out.  “With the democratisation of IT through the public cloud, IT infrastructure has become a commodity just like electricity from the socket at home. To make matters worse, the lion’s share of IT innovation is currently taking place in the public cloud. We innovative SMEs need to pay close attention here and increase our own tempo to keep up.”

Cloud computing is driving digitisation in almost all areas; it is increasingly influencing companies’ business success o. 78 per cent of cloud users and planners expect lower costs from cloud computing. 55 per cent expect a reduction in CO² emissions. 38 per cent intend to build up flexible cooperation with partners via cloud platforms Every fourth company aims to develop an innovative business model through cloud computing, while 28 percent want to develop innovative products and services .  “Cost reduction is what everyone wants when they go to the cloud, but it cannot always be realised,” notes Wissing. “Instead, innovation and time-to-market should be the primary drivers rather than cost reduction.”

IT as a component of business

The use of cloud computing does not automatically turn a company into a digital enterprise. What is clear is that the role of IT has fundamentally changed.  Today, IT is no longer something that is isolated within a company and shielded from the outside world. Rather, it is the ability to create value from and with data together with partners. The role of IT has evolved from a supporting function to a central element of value creation. If you think consequently about this development process, IT itself is a business function.

In order to benefit from digitisation and to ensure that our customer projects continue to develop innovatively and are available worldwide with high performance and availability, we put our IT function to the test.  We have broken down entrenched processes and structures, moved some IT business activities directly into the business, adapted IT trends to the public cloud and established alternative workplace models. 

To achieve this, we have deliberately left familiar architecture and development strategies and opened up paths to modern, serverless cloud applications. We want to maximise the advantages of the cloud. The cloud-first strategy allows us to delegate classic IT activities such as procuring hardware, installing it and getting it running to the cloud provider. This allows us to focus on innovatively meeting customer requirements and optimising our solutions.

“This strategic step is only possible through the use of the public cloud,” Wissing emphasises. “A private cloud approach, on the other hand, does not free companies from classic IT activities that do not directly add value.”

“As a digital innovator and provider of leading expert solutions, we are aware of our responsibility for the success of our customers,” Wissing emphasises. “Cloud architectures are an important element of enterprise IT. Our cloud-first strategy is paired with digitisation from a holistic perspective as an essential driver for our innovation, competitiveness and growth on an enterprise-wide level.”   

The advantages are obvious. We can concentrate even more on our core competencies, react quickly and flexibly to market changes and proactively support our customers and partners in their digital transformation processes with innovative solutions and services. This is how we distinguish ourselves as the driving force behind the digitisation of the independent automotive aftermarket.