The Blog

Cloud Bridging The Innovation and Skills Gap

For our economy to flourish again we need to stimulate innovation and have the skills to compete on a global stage and cloud can help enable this as it has a comparative low cost of entry compared with traditional methods.

Today's government is grappling with challenges such as reigniting economic growth, encouraging investment in UK businesses, and creating smarter cities.

For our economy to flourish again we need to stimulate innovation and have the skills to compete on a global stage and cloud can help enable this as it has a comparative low cost of entry compared with traditional methods.

The digital economy is driving innovation

With 34,000 Digital technology businesses in London, many born on the cloud, one particular sector we've seen great results from is London's digital tech sector. Over the next decade, growth from the digital tech sector is expected to create an additional £12 billion of economic activity. It's also expected to create 46,000 new jobs in the capital over the next decade.

The recently launched Tech.London is a great example of how the world works now. Cloud-hosted and using IBM's Bluemix platform, Tech.London demonstrates how technology can bring people together and trigger more opportunities for innovation.

Coding our way to the future

Learning lessons from the tech sector, we need to cultivate long term innovation and up-skill our nation. We know that computing continues to dominate our world, so programming skills are more valuable than ever. This means equipping the next generation with vital digital skills for the 21st century and beyond.

That's why President Obama has become an advocate that every kid needs to learn to code. In February 2015 he made a commitment to education, "We've got to have our kids in math and science, and it can't just be a handful of kids. It's got to be everybody. Everybody's got to learn how to code early."

Similarly, in the UK we successfully recognised this and introduced coding into the new Computing National Curriculum in September 2014. It will be more than a decade before five-year-olds reach the end of the full curriculum but its success should be able to be judged in just a few years.

From here we can build up stronger relationships with both employers and universities, nurture our skills further to adapt to the needs of future society. Home-grown innovation means we can take our talent and compete on the world stage.

Successful innovation in today's world

A great example is the use of real-time data by, which for 50 weeks of the year is quiet, but then bursts into activity when the tennis tournament is underway. Shy of over 63 million visits last year. With the help of IBM's cloud solutions , Wimbledon is able to not just scale up its resources but use analytics and even social media cues to anticipate demand in real-time.

A second example concerns the Internet of Things (IoT). German company Diabetizer uses wearables and the cloud to help people manage diabetes and to communicate with health professionals. The significance in this context is the point that IoT is essentially about data and what you do with it.

Here's five ways cloud computing can help your business innovate today:

1. Offer your services as an application program interface (API)

The first and easiest way cloud can help you innovate is to use cloud as a route to market. APIs are the digital services you provide. Partners and customers can pay for these services as they use the APIs. PayPal is an ideal example, as a wide range of mobile apps and web-based businesses use its API.

The minimum viable product for a born-in-the-cloud company is a set of APIs. Established businesses should consider what partner and client interactions could be offered as an API to improve process efficiency, increase speed, and amplify value.

2. Capture new data

The cloud allows you to capture data easily that would be otherwise hidden or ignored. The Internet of things and pervasive connectivity let an organisation reach beyond its walls to see how the product or service is used and provide additional services at the right moment to the customer.

We can learn from many inspiring examples. Creative cloud use and social media allowed ASB Bank to create the "Like a Loan" campaign. Customers were offered zero cost loans for the "best liked" story regarding a loan. These stories provided a rich set of insights on customer needs, which the bank learnt from to provide much more tailored product offerings to fit their customers

3. Sell your data

Every large enterprise builds vast lakes of data to support their business and allow its leaders to make smart decisions. However, not all of this data is confidential to the business and could be valuable to others. In many cases, organisations would be willing to pay for certain data. Cloud allows you to provide data as a service in a manageable way, which helps organisation capture value. There are risks to consider when sharing data, foremost, privacy and ethical use.

Born-on-the-cloud organisations start by considering the value of data and then develop a strategy to capture it. Established businesses start by uncovering novel use. Hackathons offer a fast and fresh approach to finding new value in data and open up innovation. This was demonstrated in the recent hackathon for Wimbledon to develop an app to enhance the ticketing and fan experience. 12 Developers attended and 7 innovative projects were born at the end of the 48 hours. A 48 hour hackathon is the equivalent to a year's worth of research and development. Essentially, leaders should bring together a broad team with diverse experience to envision how your enterprise's data could be valuable to others.

4. Combine information sources

Cloud also allows organisations to integrate data from multiple sources. Social media is often used as an example, but more interesting opportunities are in optimising interactions that span multiple organisations. The IBM Intelligent Operations Center in Rio de Janeiro combines data from weather providers, city administrations, traffic management, and emergency services to more efficiently respond to emergency situations.

Starting by understanding your value chain interactions will uncover optimisation opportunities and help identify how data can be combined in the cloud to capture the new value.

5. Go digital

Digital business creates new opportunities to create and capture value even in niches that would normally not be cost effective. E books, music downloads and video eliminates the cost and inconvenience of distribution logistics associated with the physical form of paper books, CDs or DVDs.

How does cloud help here? It provides the means to store, access or distribute these digital assets. With the advent of 3D printing, a new class of cloud-based services is emerging. For example, blueprints can be personalised to instantly print unique toys. Cloud also enables virtual learning environments, where colleagues from around the world can learn together without being in the same room. Leaders need to consider how cloud-based digital representations can enable innovation and allow new value to be captured.

Non-traditional competitors are exploring ways these five strategies can disrupt established businesses. In established enterprises, constant experimentation using combinations of these five actions allows leaders to innovate, motivate employees and wow customers.

The flexibility, analytics and collaborative power afforded by the cloud is the foundation of innovation today.