Cloud Computing for the CFO and the entire C-Suite

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IBM and other major IT vendors are introducing a set of cloud-based tools and analytics intended to help C-suite executives accelerate innovation around customer experience for the purpose of meeting their business objectives in concert with their company's IT strategy.

On Tuesday IBM introduced a set of cloud applications intended to help C-suite executives accelerate innovation around customer experience for the purpose of meeting their business objectives in concert with their company's IT strategy. First out will be a Big Data and social analytics application that chief marketing officers (CMOs) can use to get an emotional reading on how customers view their brand. The CFO may find the analytics most helpful not for marketing but for managing risk and uncovering fraud.

Anyone who attended last week's IBM Edge 2013 in Las Vegas, as wiredFINANCE did, couldn't walk away without realizing how pervasive cloud thinking has become at IBM. It has become similarly pervasive at all the major vendors; just look at Oracle OpenWorld 2013, which comes in September to San Francisco. Coming from Salesforce.com in November is Dreamforce 2013, being billed as the largest cloud computing event in the world. At IBM Edge, over 30 sessions dealt specifically with cloud computing as well as the many other sessions that included cloud references.

Having identified 100 individual cloud applications, IBM is not leaving out any C-Suite executive. Executives responsible for customer care and support will get the IBM Watson Engagement Advisor, which uses cognitive computing to enable personalized customer conversations. The head of HR is targeted for the IBM SmartCloud for Social Business, which promises to find, analyze, source and acquire the best talent. Supply chain execs, chief procurement officers, the CFO, and even the CIO have been targeted.

For the CFO IBM is preparing to roll out cloud-based applications to help them make more analytical, risk-aware decisions supporting revenue, expenses, and compensation processes by tapping cloud analytics.The CFO counterpart, the General Counsel, and other legal professionals can similarly use cloud applications to streamline contract management processes and strengthen intellectual property and risk analytics to better serve their internal and external stakeholders.

At the same time, the CIO, according to IBM, will get cloud solutions needed by various lines-of-business as part of a comprehensive IT strategy to ensure security, flexibility in deployment options, and hybrid environment integrations. The CIO, of course, should have been neck deep in cloud research and analysis for the past year at least.

To support the announcement, IBM lined up a handful of customers as examples. For instance, London-based Speedo, the big swimwear brand, is using cloud-based digital analytics software from IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative to improve the customer's shopping experience, which has resulted in cross-selling revenue gains of more than 10% in online sales and is generating six times more revenue per average order.

Nielsen Media taps the cloud–based IBM Watson Engagement Advisor to crunch big data in record time to transform the way they engage clients in key functions such as customer service, marketing, and sales. Watson gives the company a cognitive computing assistant that learns, adapts and understands the company's data quickly and easily, and through learning the tool steadily increases its knowledge and value over time.

Apparently, cloud computing has piqued the interest of enough C-suite execs to make them a viable target for IBM's various cloud-based offerings. The C-suite is adopting cloud computing, according to IBM, because they see its ability to transform their front office processes –marketing, procurement, supplier management, human resources, and legal. In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2017, C-suite execs, particularly CMOs, will spend more on IT than CIOs.

Making cloud offerings particularly interesting to C-level executives is the nature of cloud computing itself, which allows organizations to start small, pay for what they use, and combine it with their traditional IT systems. If Edge 2013 and the new C-Suite cloud initiative is any indication, expect to see more cloud in everything IBM does and the other major vendors are following right along. The cloud finally is coming into its own.

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