cloudIn 2016, cloud technologies went mainstream. In fact, according to the Asia Cloud Computing Association’s (ACCA) Cloud Readiness Index (CRI) 2016 revealed earlier this year, Singapore became the second most cloud ready country in Asia Pacific (APAC).

But with maturity came the realization that moving to the cloud doesn’t happen overnight. CIOs are prioritizing hosted computing and cloud data storage. But they’re approaching the shift as a gradual, multi-year journey. IT teams are gearing up for this shift. They are building expertise with new training priorities and recruiting employees with cloud experience.

Many start-ups and small businesses will continue to go all-in on cloud. But enterprises will find success in a slow but steady move from on-prem. Hybrid ecosystems—of data, software, and infrastructure—will be the reality for most established organizations. As this shift to cloud progresses, here are the eight trends we see shaping 2017.

1. IT shifts its skill set

Continued growth in cloud adoption is creating increased demand for cloud expertise. In response, IT is prioritizing cloud-focused training for both hard skills and new workflows.

To execute on their organization’s technology roadmap, IT is shifting its skill set. Training programs are focusing on cloud security, hosted databases, and infrastructure as a service. And IT managers are stepping up their search for candidates with experience in DevOps practices and cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

In its recent list of top in-demand skills for new and current employees in 2017, LinkedIn noted “Cloud and Distributed Computing” as the number one skill in both its global and Singapore rankings. Organizations across the board are realizing that they need employees with these skills to stay competitive.

2. Organizations embrace a hybrid world

Many organizations are living a hybrid reality split between on-prem and cloud environments. But a new breed of flexible software is helping organizations simplify this hybrid world. These tools move seamlessly across cloud and on-prem systems.

Not able—or wanting—to move to the cloud in one fell swoop, many CIOs have adopted a hybrid approach. A few months ago, research firm, IDC, predicted that soon 70% of enterprises in Southeast Asia will commit to a Hybrid Cloud strategy. But this can often yield significant challenges. Data is fragmented across local servers and cloud services. And many software applications are restricted to on-prem deployment or cloud-only use.

To stay efficient within a hybrid environment, businesses need solutions that work on-premise and in the cloud. And that’s where hybrid software comes in. Hybrid software allows people to connect to data stored anywhere. It gives them the choice of deploying on-prem or in the public cloud or running as a fully-hosted service. And it allows CIOs to invest in a single solution for their entire business. For the end user, these solutions make complex hybrid environments function as one cohesive system. For IT, the benefits run even deeper: investments in hybrid software will remain fully relevant even as organizations shift operations toward an all-cloud future.

3. Software governance improves life for IT and the business

Locally-installed software makes it hard for IT to balance visibility of deployed applications with flexibility for the end user. But hosted services are now enabling IT to retain control of applications without locking down personal choice for end users.

As the guards of corporate policy and security standards, IT must often restrict download rights and application permissions for desktop software. But with growing adoption of IT-deployed cloud applications, the need to lock down software is falling away.

Hosted applications allow administrators to monitor usage and manage features at any time. This allows IT to maintain fine-grained control of things like authentication, data security, and user permissions. It also helps reduce restrictions placed on end users. Business users can choose and customize their applications. Access to cutting-edge technology is now recognized as a top contributor to overall employee satisfaction. And with newfound autonomy over their software, many employees are becoming more productive and satisfied with their workflow. Organizations making the shift to hosted applications are poised to win big as they fight for top talent.

4. Hosted applications streamline internal business ops
Business operations require significant investments in software, hardware, and people to manage it all. But enterprises are now looking to SaaS in their quest to cut costs and boost agility.

Today, SaaS is beginning to replace monolith on-prem applications (that were traditionally expensive and time-consuming to deploy). According to Statistica, SaaS and PaaS portions of cloud hardware and infrastructure software spending are projected to reach US$12B in 2016 and grow up to US$55B in 2026. Furthermore, IDC predicted that by 2020, penetration of SaaS versus traditional software deployment will be over 25%.

SaaS provides specialized solutions without the challenges of on-prem deployment. Hosted products help businesses gain operational flexibility by way of cutting deployment burdens and eliminating the need to manually maintain and upgrade software. With less time and budget earmarked for on-prem deployments, IT is now free to focus on business insights and innovation.

5. Long-term customer success and adoption are top priorities

Cloud platforms have eliminated many upfront challenges associated with on-prem deployments. Today, cloud software vendors are extending their focus far beyond the point of sale. They’re working with customers to ensure product adoption and business value.

In the world of cloud, software deployments require fewer initial investments of time and money.  Customers evaluating software renewals no longer have to worry about large sunk costs. This shift is placing satisfaction rates and business value front and center.

Sales engagements increasingly span the entire lifecycle of a buyer’s journey. Cloud vendors are focusing on their customers’ long-term success and developing a strong working relationship with both IT and the business. They’re offering higher levels of customer support, more robust training resources, and deeper guidance on product adoption. This new timeframe is leading to mutually beneficial partnerships. Enterprises realize more value from their investments, and vendors build long-term customers rather than one-time buyers.

6. Flexible analytics solve IoT’s last-mile challenge
With large quantities of IoT data now easily ingested into cloud storage, the focus is shifting from capture to analysis. Organizations are demanding analysis tools that seamlessly connect to and integrate diverse forms of cloud-hosted data.

IoT data tends to be heterogeneous and stored across multiple systems. It’s no small feat to access and understand all that data. As a result, the market is calling for analytical tools that seamlessly connect to and combine a wide variety of cloud-hosted data sources. These tools enable businesses to explore and visualize any type of data stored anywhere and maximize the value of their IoT investment.

In recent research, IDC has also revealed that as the big data analytics market in Asia Pacific continues to mature (with cities in the region getting smarter and more connected), there will be a growing demand for cloud-based delivery of business analytics services, amongst others.

7. Service providers shift from software deployment to change management

The growth of hosted software is changing the game for service providers. No longer just deployment consultants, service providers are also becoming trusted advisors for their customers as they move to the cloud.

Service providers have traditionally focused on technical support for complex software deployments, and rightly so. But in the age of cloud, hosted software erases many of the deployment challenges associated with on-prem.

This shift is creating new opportunities for service providers. As subject matter experts, they are now providing guidance on cloud deployments that range from change management to best practices for cultural adoption of new technology.

8. Collaboration comes standard with all applications

Collaboration takes time, and a lot of it. In fact, collaborative tasks have recently ballooned by more than 50%. But features baked into cloud applications are helping to streamline teamwork in the office.

Collaborating with data is also becoming easier. Modern analytics tools seamlessly incorporate sharing and collaboration features. These self-service products are helping people easily share data and dashboards, all within their browser. Similarly, intelligent features like subscriptions and recommendations are taking the pain out of collaboration in large groups. This new cohort of cloud applications help people stay focused and productive, effectively transforming collaboration from a time-sink to a value-add.

By Jonah Kim, Product Manager, APAC, Tableau