The cloud-shaped future of Scottish business and how we are embracing it

Andrew Lawson, UK&I managing director and SVP North Europe, Middle East and Africa at Salesforce, explains why Scotland is a great example of a market taking advantage of cloud technology to grow – and creating strong demand for strong digital talent and business technology, innovation and evolution.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
It’s the idea that tech innovations will profoundly impact all aspects of our lives, including how we work, play and communicate.
Since the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos earlier this year, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been a hot topic among economists the world over, and one that seems to be growing in importance.
It might sound like hype, but think about it: soon there will be six billion smartphones and more than 75 billion connected products. Most of us wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without at least one device with us and these days we really do have an app for everything.
Underpinning all these devices and apps is the cloud – without cloud computing, this hyper-connected, mobile world just wouldn’t be possible.
You might wonder what this has to do with business owners and managers. But, actually, from a business standpoint, the impact of this revolution is just as important as it is on our personal lives – something we’re certainly seeing in Scotland, where the tech industry is booming.
According to the Tech Nation 2016 report from Tech City, there are now more than 100,000 digital jobs in the country, and there are more than 1000 tech sector companies, boasting a GVA of £1.5 billion.
Meanwhile the Scottish Government reports that businesses in the ‘professional, scientific and technical’ category now make up the highest proportion of any sector in Scotland. But what’s really behind this growth?
For a start, there’s certainly Scottish entrepreneurial spirit, a skilled workforce and a strong talent pipeline, with our excellent universities turning out more than 10,000 students each year in tech-related disciplines. And let’s not forget our great innovation infrastructure, from leading universities keen to collaborate with the private sector, to the availability of coworking office spaces, ideal for startups.
But for me, the exciting evolution now happening in Scotland is both from the perspective of entrepreneurs, who want to drive new, interesting business concepts and technology into the global market, and also from businesses themselves – taking advantage of technologies like cloud computing that make it easier to set up, scale up and run businesses successfully.
Cloud technology is undeniably the success booster behind many businesses disrupting the way we view the market for both products and services.
For instance, the cloud is helping disruptors like Uber succeed from the start.
It’s because the cloud  provides almost overnight scalability for businesses. Its subscription-based model eliminates the need for big capital expense – ideal for fledgling companies that need to stay agile.
And the cloud eliminates the need to maintain heavy IT infrastructure on-premise, so entrepreneurs don’t have to get mired in dealing with IT issues. Instead, they can focus on growing their core business.
Bottom line: the cloud lets startups and small businesses punch way above their weight and grow faster than ever before.
Case study: Edinburgh Research & Innovation 
Edinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI) is a good example of the importance of cloud technology to the startup sector in central Scotland.
Affiliated with the University of Edinburgh, ERI’s mission is to help university researchers connect with entrepreneurs, investors and relevant business leaders, in order to help them commercialise their ideas.
The centre has helped launch more than 180 businesses based on Edinburgh University research in the last five years alone, and it does this all through cloud computing.
Its ability to connect academics with just the right resource at the right time is made possible because vast amounts of information are easily accessible, via the cloud.
Hosting about 44 networking events per year, the cloud also lets ERI more easily capture and share information from these events, enabling them to serve a wider community.
But cloud isn’t just fuelling small business growth. There’s another reason why it has emerged as such an important factor in supporting growth in both the tech sector and more broadly in Scotland: it enables digital transformation, regardless of company size or sector.
What I mean is that cloud computing also enables medium and large businesses to tear down their traditionally siloed approach, letting them better share intelligence, collaborate and, ultimately, better serve their digital-savvy customers.
Also, the cloud provides a platform that makes it much easier to develop and deploy apps that can improve all facets of a business. Just as we have an app for everything in our personal lives, businesses can use apps for everything from optimising inventory management to empowering an in-the-field sales team.
Case study: Aegon
How does this work in reality? Well, one great example of a traditional business that is digitally transforming is Edinburgh-based Aegon.
With its retirement planning service, Retiready, the company has taken a cloud-first approach to ensure scalability, speed of deployment and reliability.
Now, regardless of the channel a customer uses to get in touch, Aegon has a complete view of that customer’s history to ensure they can offer the most personalised service possible.
And it doesn’t end there. The company can manage relevant conversations on social media – even if Aegon isn’t tagged. This is helping Aegon stay up to date with customers’ needs and concerns and is also identifying hundreds of thousands of potential new customers.
It’s remarkable to think that, not too long ago, cloud computing was a brand new concept, and one that was met with a fair degree of skepticism – even hostility. Many pundits thought it would result in job losses – as improving efficiencies within organisations would translate into redundancies.
Scotland is a terrific example of a market taking advantage of cloud technology to grow – and creating strong demand for strong digital talent and business technology, innovation and evolution.
While you might accuse me, as a Scot, of natural bias, there’s no question in my mind that Scotland’s depth of talent, strong university network, and rich mix of tech enterprises and innovative startups will drive continued growth for the region and the world.
And, as more and more companies digitise and look to technology as a growth enabler, I think the future for the country is becoming even brighter.
About Salesforce 
Salesforce started in 1999 with a vision of reinventing Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Since then its pioneering use of cloud computing has revolutionised the way enterprise software is delivered and used, changing the industry forever.
Ever since Salesforce launched its first CRM solution, Salesforce products have run entirely in the cloud.
That means it’s all online – no software, no hardware. There are no expensive setup costs, no maintenance, employees can work from any device with an internet connection – smartphone, tablet or laptop.
This revolutionary approach has helped to make its Sales Cloud the world’s number 1 CRM system.

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