"What have the Romans ever done for us?" cried the Monty Python's crew in 'Life Of Brian'.  In the film they quickly remind themselves with a list of ground-breaking contributions to society, from aqueducts and roads to irrigation and public health, and the rest is, quite literally, history.

"So, what can a move to the Cloud ever do for us?" comes the similarly plaintiff query from Retailers.  The answer is: quite a lot, actually...

Retail invests less than 1.7% of revenues on technical innovation.  As this article from Wired states, that's less than a third compared to an industry such as Finance (specifically Banking) - and this at a time when sheer survival demands investment in contemporary technologies.  When there is a sharp focus on costs and operations, competition for finite R&D funds available becomes intense - how do you prioritise valuable spend?

It's important to see things from a Solutions perspective, not a technology product viewpoint.  This means understanding the real retail business value of any proposed investment.  When it comes to Cloud this can be tricky - but here are my top 5 reasons for considering the move:

1. Reduced costs

With the Cloud, you only pay for what you need.  This 'on demand' model minimises waste in terms of redundant, under-utilised owned infrastructure which in turn offers financial flexibility.  ‘Virtualisation’ becomes an Opex rather than Capex expenditure item, minimising accounting administration.

2. Flexibility

Cloud offers Retailers greater flexibility, allowing use of such hosted services at times of peak demand (e.g. during the build-up to the Christmas period or for large data analysis projects), eliminating the need for over-provision and enabling quick response times to changes driven by business opportunities.  A Cloud strategy offers unique capabilities for Retailers, particularly when it comes to seasonal bursting and service elasticity.  It can help Retailers to load balance their data ingestion just as they would staffing numbers during busy periods without incurring additional capital investment costs.

3. Scalability and availability

The need for Digital Transformation has become a reality and the new norm for Retailers.  The ability to scale – and having an infrastructure that is resistant to failure during periods of high traffic when systems simply cannot go down, especially when exposed to peak load – is now one of the key differentiators in the success (or failure) of a retail organisation.  Scale means having the technology capacity to handle spikes in demand from customers when they need your services the most.  How a Retailer responds to sudden spikes in these transactions is now critical not just to growth but to survival.

4. Faster time to market

Retailers are under pressure to innovate faster more now than ever before.  Software development can be up to four times faster on the Cloud (source: salesforce.com), offering significant economies of scale.  Software DevOps practices can become established, virtual machines can be deployed and software installed, tested and proved much faster.  In fact, only the Cloud can provide the large testing and development environments that Retailers need to transform digitally today.

5. Real-time information for better and faster decisions

Cloud services can concentrate data integration, ingest it and transform it into actionable insight using in-built Analytical tools designed to improve real-time decision-making.  The results can be provided instantly and anywhere, on any device, to both employees and customers alike.

Whether it's Public, Private or Hybrid Cloud, retail has much to gain from making the move from on-premise to virtual hosting and storage.  It's time to reap these benefits - it's time to get your head into the Cloud.