Claims that most organisations have moved, or are moving, to cloud e-mail or cloud office systems are not consistent with research by Gartner.

Gartner estimates that there are currently about 50-million enterprise users of cloud office systems, which represent only 8% of overall office system users (excluding China and India). However, the researcher predicts that a major shift toward cloud office systems will begin by the first half of 2015 and reach 33% penetration by 2017.

“Despite the hype surrounding migration to the cloud, big differences in movement rates continue, depending on organisations’ size, industry, geography and specific requirements,” says Tom Austin, VP and Gartner fellow.
“While 8% of business people were using cloud office systems at the start of 2013, we estimate this number will grow to 695-million users by 2022, to represent 60%.”

Although e-mail remains the world’s primary collaboration tool, others, such as team sites and communities are growing in importance.
Nonetheless, e-mail is typically pivotal in decisions to move – or not move – to cloud office systems. Gartner estimates that by the end of 2014 at least 10% of enterprise e-mail seats will be based on a cloud or software-as-a-service model. This figure will rise to at least one-third by the end of 2017.

In addition, there has been a substantial expansion in the number of devices people use to access cloud office systems in recent years. In 2007, when the cloud office system market first appeared, typical individual users would employ just one device to access their enterprise’s office systems. In 2013, that number has soared.

Gartner estimates the typical knowledge worker now employs up to four devices – for example, mobile phone, media tablet, personal PC and enterprise PC – to access their organisation’s office system capabilities in a single week.

This explosion in the number of devices per user could drive some organisations to cloud office systems as they can reduce the IT burden of software installation, maintenance and upgrades of locally installed office software.

Device counts are an important consideration. While organisations may need to buy licences, for each and every device that a user uses to access non-cloud office systems and applications, cloud office systems are typically provisioned to each user, not to each device.

As a result, two alternative cases emerge: for knowledge workers who are increasingly using multiple devices, moving to a per-user (not per-device) payment scheme can lead to significant savings if the customer would otherwise have to licence (or buy subscriptions for) each device under older, per-device licensing approaches.

Alternatively, organisations with many devices shared between workers – as in the banking and healthcare industries – may be better off licensing or subscribing by device.
Current levels of adoption vary significantly by industry. Organisations in industries at the leading edge, such as higher education, discrete manufacturing, retail and hospitality, are significantly more likely to adopt cloud-based office systems at present. Those in the intelligence and defence sectors, and in heavily regulated parts of the financial services and healthcare industries, are among the least likely to be early adopters.

“Although it is still early in the overall evolution of this cloud-based segment, there are many cases where businesses – particularly smaller ones and those in the retail, hospitality and manufacturing industries – should move at least some users to cloud office systems during the next two years,” says Austin. “However, readiness varies by service provider, and caution is warranted.”