Mayer Brown predicts more companies will take on cloud services to aid digital business efforts.
Organizations will move an expanding range of business processes into the cloud in 2017 to gain more business and reduce overhead costs.
That was the prediction of international law firm Mayer Brown. Partners in the firm's technology transactions division held a recent teleconference on the trends shaping business and tech services in the coming year.
Rebecca Eisner, a partner at the firm, said 2016 was a "tipping point" for companies adopting anything as a service -- cloud-based technologies for applications, IT infrastructure or software development.
"We saw clients in large numbers deciding that cloud was safe enough and reliable enough to support critical computing workloads," Eisner said during the call. "And what we're hearing is that our clients intend to make even bigger moves toward cloud in 2017."
Mayer Brown attorneys advise clients on issues such as data rights, digital services, outsourcing and systems development.
The large-scale move toward cloud computing is part and parcel of what the firm sees as another major trend: the shift by organizations from business processes operated in-house or by a managed services provider to digital services -- say, human resource management or database applications -- run off-premises by cloud service providers.
The firm also foresees organizations adding to their digital arsenals in 2017 to process and analyze the vast amounts of data they're gathering. They'll tap artificial intelligence and its relative robotics process automation, software that does tasks once done only by people, such as data entry -- and cloud has the speed and processing power to make it all happen.
"In the cloud you can have big data sets sitting there. You can be drawing data from different areas," Eisner said in a phone interview. "It's not that you can't have those things without the cloud -- it's just that the cloud is accelerating the adoption of all of these technologies."
Part of the reason for increased attention to cloud-based technologies may be political uncertainty, said Dan Masur, another Mayer Brown partner, during the teleconference. President Donald Trump's promises to keep U.S. jobs on U.S. soil may indeed force companies to look beyond traditional ways of outsourcing such as "offshore labor arbitrage," -- that is, moving jobs to lower-cost countries, he said.
And while cloud computing or robotics process automation -- another "sourcing strategy" -- may result in lost American jobs, "they cannot be attacked as offshoring jobs to foreign countries," Masur said.
Despite uncertainty swirling around the Trump administration's actions on trade agreements, visa policies or regulations, Masur said, "We suspect that companies will not be able to delay for long the implementation of their digital strategies. There is simply too much risk of a disruptive innovator taking advantage of that delay."
And organizations will amass a catalog of technology providers, including cloud service providers "to blaze the digital trail for help in becoming digital businesses," said Paul Roy, another Mayer Brown partner.
"We have every expectation that they will source services from an ever-expanding list of emerging and digital technology providers," he said.
All those new cloud-based technologies and other services will need to connect so that data flows smoothly from one to the other in organizations, Masur said. Software integrators need to make sure that "instructions given to the software stack that each company is running will be processed seamlessly and accurately throughout that software stack." That means there will be an emphasis in software contracts on systems integration.
"We are seeing our clients turn primarily to third-party integrators for that task -- to configure the new systems, to create the data lakes, to create the middleware, to configure the APIs," Masur said.
Harnessing disparate data sources has been a "tremendous challenge" for organizations, but there's also "tremendous opportunity for the companies who could effectively use integrators to come out and be winners in this digital transformation of our economy."