Recently, I needed a last-minute gift for a close friend and I definitely didn’t have time to run all over town looking for something. My wife suggested the ‘buy online, pick up in store’ offering from Macy’s. I went online, found something suitable, and bought it. Then I simply drove down the street to our local Macy’s and picked it up—all on my lunch hour and with plenty of time to spare.
This experience wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying without the power of the cloud. Retailers like Macy’s are increasingly relying on cloud technology to better engage customers—both in-store and online. In my case, that simply meant the ability to check store inventory in real time and quickly notify the service reps that I was coming to pick up my just-purchased item.
All this got me thinking: if the cloud is enhancing my shopping experience, how else is it changing the world around me?
We’re seeing it every day—the cloud is transforming nearly every sector. However, in this post, I want to highlight three in particular—government, healthcare, and retail—due to their everyday prominence and the cloud’s potential to impact every level of user in the coming year, from consumers to CIOs.
Government: cloud brings efficiency and savings
As outdated legacy systems are replaced and the federal government’s ‘Cloud First‘ mandate is implemented, formerly slow-moving agencies may soon become known for savings and efficiency.
In 2011, the White House issued its Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, the beginning of a shift in federal policy away from traditional, on-premises data centers that were typified by wasteful spending, application visibility challenges, and duplicative systems—not to mention long procurement lead times. The move toward the cloud holds great promise and considerable savings have already materialized.
According to a 2015 report from the Congressional Research Service, federal ‘agencies reported cost savings of about $96 million… These savings included both one-time and multiyear savings.’ Since 2012, the number of cloud services implemented by federal agencies has gone from 21 to 101, and it’s set to increase even more.
Healthcare: cloud empowers patients and improves research
Healthcare providers are starting to realize that the cloud is potentially more secure than their local data center (provided the right protocols and practices are in place). Consumers are accessing their medical records online at a higher rate, and many medical researchers are starting to rely on the cloud’s computing power to process data, opening up new opportunities for medical breakthroughs.
Even though 75% of consumers in 2013 reported that they are concerned about medical record security, 43.6% of healthcare organizations are already using the cloud to host clinical applications and data, with 28.6% reporting improved information security in the cloud.
Security concerns notwithstanding, patients are starting to take advantage of the convenience of online medical records. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology reported that between 2013 and 1014, the number of people who accessed medical records online at least once during the year jumped from 46% to 55%. Furthermore, ‘About one-third of individuals accessed their medical record one to two times in 2014 whereas about one-fifth of individuals accessed their online record once or twice in 2013.’ New services like GE Health Cloud promise to make access to healthcare records even easier and more secure starting as early as 2016 and cloud technology is making medical offices much more efficient.
Cloud computing is also changing the way medical research is done. Fortune recently reported on a Novartis study that ran 40 years of drug simulation in eight hours, costing thousands of dollars rather than the usual millions. Savings in time and money provided by the cloud are enabling scientists to solve problems much faster with huge potential benefits to public health.
Retail: cloud transforms shopping experiences online and in-store
As this Forbes article suggests, advances in cloud technology are enabling retailers to treat every shopper like a celebrity. Of course, during this busy holiday shopping season, supporting customer demands is priority number one.
Managing major spikes in online traffic during this holiday season is a big challenge for retailers. One way online retailers prepare for holiday shopping is to implement hybrid cloud solutions that allow them to quickly scale up when demand spikes. The cloud is also enabling retailers to keep better track of inventory and accurately inform customers about the availability of specific products.
In-store shopping is changing, too. According to Information Age, ‘More than 75% of shoppers have their Wi-Fi switched on but only 5% of retailers use this to their advantage through connecting with the shopper.’ But that will soon change, thanks to the cloud and other digital transformations. The cloud is going to allow retailers to quickly access and process vast amounts of data, and then create new and more tailored shopping opportunities for customers who visit brick-and-mortar stores. These include suggesting items in real time based on past purchases, providing special offers based on social media engagement, or leading customers to the exact spot in the store where they can find what they’re looking for.
We know that the changes the cloud is bringing are inescapable and profound. Soon, everyone is going to be impacted, no matter what role they’re playing—citizen, patient, or consumer.
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