The concept of the cloud as we know it today has been around since at least 2000 (even though we didn’t call it the cloud back then). The cloud’s potential (especially around predictive insights) has been documented ad nauseum in the news, in whitepapers, in marketing collateral, in analyst briefings and in presentations. But only recently have we seen the maturation of that promise delivered in products, solutions and services.

Today many of us use the cloud to buy things on Amazon.  We consume media via Netflix and Spotify. Those services anticipate our wants and needs and suggest alternatives. We use it to interact with friends and family on Facebook.  When driven to our smartphones via apps, the cloud has already fundamentally changed the way we live our personal lives.

For the Human Resources sector, what the cloud offers is potentially a game changer (more on that in a later post). In its infancy, the cloud created an expectation as the Holy Grail of predictive insights. Imagine the ability to analyze relevant and complex datasets quickly and easily in a meaningful way to better source talent for your company. Sound appealing? That’s the promise of applications, data and analytics in the cloud. It is nothing less than the democratization of analytic insights.

The cloud provides a mechanism to collect and make sense of both business and personal data. Business information such as demographic trends, economic indicators, salary ranges by role and location and other influences on workforce optimization are there. Individual’s employment histories, recommendations, published work and profiles are readily available. In the traditional applications and data world, integrating and analyzing all these sources can be problematic. The fact that more often cloud solutions are multi-tenant and highly configurable solutions based on standards will make this complex, difficult integration and analysis process much easier than in the past.

Just on the face of it, the ability to do what has not been broadly possible before has value. But it is the agility it brings to business people as they search for, recruit, and develop talent that is the real win. The scope of information, speed at which it can be assembled, and ability to quickly re-integrate as requirements change bring competitive advantage. And, as we’ll discuss in later posts, changes the HR-to-Business dynamics of Human Capital Management.

While there is certainly a cost benefit today associated with the cloud, there is an absolute requirement to work in the cloud to drive innovation for the future – data-driven innovation. In the past, collecting data was expensive and the only cost-effective way to use data was to collect small samples and spend lots of time extrapolating, analyzing and drawing conclusions. This method inherently leads to bias results and delayed action.  With cloud based systems, organizations will increasingly be able to continuously monitor interactions, analyze data in real time, predict outcomes and automatically take actions to maximize results.

The upside for organizations is tremendous. Working in the cloud is a necessity and leading organizations recognize there is no other choice if they will effectively compete in today’s dynamic business world.