A recent report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services found that companies that are widely adopting cloud computing technologies are gaining a competitive edge by decreasing complexity of business processes and increasing agility. The study was conducted by surveying more than 500 HBR readers from large and mid-size companies across the globe. The majority of respondents came from companies with more than 10,000 employees.

According to the report, the leading driver in cloud adoption among all respondents was business agility, with 32 percent of participants listing it as the primary reason their company adopted cloud infrastructure. Other drivers included reduced costs, greater innovation and ability to scale.

"Not even the cautious adopters led with 'it really saves money," Angelia Herrin, research director at HBR, said in an interview with CIO . "If you're stuck on using new technologies like cloud just to save money, you're really losing out. Agility leads to being able to do things like enter new markets, improved productivity and improved responsiveness to customers."

Aggressive adopters see increased benefits
The study went on to reveal that out of the 70 percent of respondents who had adopted a cloud platform, 35 percent were "very aggressively moving forward where it makes sense."The report also found that a majority of aggressive adopters, dubbed cloud enthusiasts, preferred private cloud platforms to hybrid or public solutions and more than half of the enthusiasts reported experiencing significant advantages due to their implementation of cloud services.

Two thirds of respondents said their company's adoption of cloud computing would help to reduce the complexity of their IT operations, while more than half reported increase employee productivity and responsiveness to customers. The study's participants also reported security benefits, as 65 percent said the cloud had either an increased or neutral impact on security.

Of the respondents who already implemented cloud platforms, 37 percent responded that it made internal operations simpler, and 33 percent reported improved delivery of internal resources. Other cited cloud computing benefits include increased collaboration and innovation between employees, faster rollout of new business initiatives and an improved ability to acquire, share, analyze and act on data. According to the survey, enterprises with more advanced cloud deployments are more likely to have entered a new market in the past three years than companies who adopted less aggressively.

Effective implementation requires C-level support
Herrin noted that companies that are successfully leveraging all of the cloud's benefits most likely have a CEO who is engaged and ready to effect change in the enterprise.

"We're really seeing companies that are making big impacts have a lot of involvement from the top," Herrin told CIO contributor Thor Olavsrud. "I think the conversation about technology is one where the companies that are moving fast and really experiencing digital transformation have a CEO that is really embracing it and pushing it. These companies are having a really strategic conversation, constantly, about what they are doing and what they are targeting with their technology. Those companies who say technology is an advantage for them also say that their CIOs don't just have a seat at the table, they're helping to lead the charge."