How cloud is shaping the UK of tomorrow

Profile picture for user alawson By Andrew Lawson May 15, 2016
As the Cloud World Tour hits London this week, Andrew Lawson, SVP North Europe, Middle East and Africa, Managing Director UKI for Salesforce, offers some thoughts on the impact of the cloud on UK Plc.

Andrew Lawson

There’s been a lot of talk about how we’re at the beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a time in which technology will change every aspect of how we live.

And though buzz words and trends come and go, I genuinely believe we are seeing the start of a new era where cloud-based, mobile technology will fundamentally change everything. Smartphones, wearables, subscription-based entertainment, and an endless selection of apps have changed how we work, play and stay in touch.

But the benefits of this cloud-enabled age go beyond just greater productivity and convenience for the individual. It’s creating growth and innovation for the nation, and helping the UK thrive on the global stage. That's something showcased this week at our Salesforce World Tour Tour conference in London,(the largest of our shows outside of Dreamforce, incidentally. The UK gets the cloud!)

According to the Tech-Nation 2016 report from Tech City UK, the digital economy is supporting the creation of new jobs nearly three times faster than the rest of the market (x2.8). These increasing opportunities offer people exciting careers, and help provide solid livelihoods. Just looking at Salesforce’s own ecosystem of customer and partners, analyst firm IDC found that it will help create approximately 54,000 new jobs in the UK by 2018.

What’s behind this growth? It’s everywhere – from the smallest startups to the largest enterprises in the UK.  The TechCity report cites ‘application and software development’ as the strongest performing segment within the tech sector – which isn’t surprising. The cloud has profoundly changed the way apps are developed and deployed – providing platforms that make building great apps more about clicks than code, and marketplaces that offer a chance for developers to reach a network of customers overnight.

Within Salesforce’s own ecosystem, UK-based CloudSense and FinancialForce are great examples of companies building and growing their businesses by developing innovative apps that help commercial customers boost productivity.

Companies like these have emerged as critical parts of a broader cloud market in the UK. From a Salesforce perspective, they help us ensure our customers are getting the most value, so it’s key we support them. In fact, Salesforce Ventures has recently invested in cloud startups including NewVoiceMedia, Qubit and DigitalGenius – all leaders that are helping shape the global app economy.

And of course, it’s consumer-driven businesses that have been jumping into the cloud to gain market advantage. Companies like Ocado and Hailo, both technology-enabled startups, have shaken up entire sectors by offering services and value completely aligned to what today’s “connected consumers” want.

These disruptive offerings simply would not have been possible before the advent of the cloud. UK players like Sureflap and JustEat rely on the always-on scalability of the cloud to help support their rapid growth whilst creating personalised engagement with all of their customers.

Quite simply: the cloud lets SMBs punch way above their weight and grow faster than ever before.
And for larger-scale enterprises, leveraging the cloud lets IT departments move away from just ‘keeping the lights on’ and maintaining on-premise legacy systems. Instead, businesses can focus on driving innovation that helps their companies move faster, better serve customers and expand their products and services to create new and unique offerings.

No more silos

Cloud also means the end to information silos – because all the data is accessible, organisations can now better share information and collaborate across departments. And companies can now take advantage of – or even build their own - business applications to improve virtually every facet of their business.

One iconic brand that is taking advantage of the opportunities cloud offers is Aston Martin. This iconic British brand uses Salesforce cloud technology to make every customer experience feel as special and exclusive as sitting behind the wheel of its finest automobile.

Retailer John Lewis is another great example, digitising to offer its customers a personalised, 1:1 experience across all of its channels.

But it’s not only UK Plc that’s benefitting from the cloud. Helping create efficiencies and improve front-line services, the cloud really helps organisations do more with less, and that can result in tremendously positive impact for UK citizens. Organisations like Peterborough City Council embrace the cloud, implementing apps that let council workers assist people more efficiently, and deploying online solutions that help residents access services more quickly and participate in civic life more easily.

There’s another way the tech industry is changing the country for the better, and that’s around giving back. Some of the biggest headlines around philanthropy come from the generosity of prominent tech leaders. But, it’s so much more than just big individual donors (wonderful though they are!). The fact is, the talent behind many of the most promising tech companies today want more than quick profits. They want to feel like they are making a real difference in the world. takes an integrated approach to giving back, pledging Salesforce’s technology, people and resources to benefit our communities. Recently in the UK, we announced the Pledge 1% initiative, challenging businesses to take make a similar commitment. Twenty-eight UK small to medium sized businesses have already joined. We look forward to more taking part.

This integrated approach to giving back is so impactful because the technology and the tech expertise our industry has to offer can make such a profound difference to non-profit organisations.

For example, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) uses technology to help increase accessibility for the visually impaired people it serves. As a beneficiary, RNIB uses cloud technology to more effectively manage its client base and ensure their clients receive all of the support they need.

It’s amazing to think that not too long along, cloud computing was a novel concept and one that was actually fairly controversial. Certainly, there was worry that it could ultimately take jobs away – improving efficiencies in such a way that the need for human talent would be reduced. Clearly, that hasn’t happened yet – nor is it likely to. And looking toward the future, for UK businesses in the cloud, it’s exciting times. The sky’s no longer the limit – it’s just the start of British success.