09/03/2013 10:57 am ET Updated Nov 03, 2013

The Path to Innovation Goes Through the Cloud

As cloud adoption reaches the tipping point, some sectors are seeing newer market entrants threatening to overtake legacy players mired in tradition. Gartner predicts that the worldwide cloud services market will grow 18.5 percent in 2013 to total $131 billion, up from $111 billion in 2012. Yet, many of the world's oldest professions such as accounting, legal and banking have been slow to tap the cloud to make it rain.

Legacy industries such as accounting and financial management are being disrupted by cloud-driven competitors such as Xero, and Expensify, while the legal industry is being redefined by companies like Clio, Rocket Lawyer and DocuSign. The benefits of cloud adoption extend far beyond the IT department. Leveraging the cloud allows organizations to be more agile, expediting go-to-market strategies and allowing for faster, more responsive shifts in focus, when needed. On demand, scalable cloud solutions speed the path to innovation, enabling businesses to test new ideas, experiment and even fail without a costly investment.

For small businesses, the cloud revolution has opened up opportunities not previously available. Small businesses can now easily access their finances from anywhere, collaborate with colleagues on the go and take advantage of solutions traditionally created for enterprises at affordable prices.

The upward trajectory of cloud computing has also debunked many of the myths surrounding adoption. For example, industries such as legal, accounting and healthcare often cited data sensitivity as a reason to approach the cloud with trepidation. However, a recent study revealed that 94 percent of US businesses improved security after adopting cloud applications.

The flexibility of cloud computing - being able to try before you buy, scale easily and use the device that suits you - allow savvy businesses to respond quickly to market trends and demands. As adoption and innovation progress, traditional accounting companies like Intuit and the high-priced law firms are seeing their industries disrupted by built-for-the-cloud companies providing new opportunities for the small businesses they serve.

The cloud has afforded small businesses with immeasurable opportunities to grow. Take for example, Taylor Stitch, an independent custom shirt maker that opened its first brick-and-mortar store in San Francisco in 2011. By merging a traditional service with cloud technology, the company has been thriving, leading to an exclusive collection with Banana Republic. Additionally, Blue Chair Fruit, an artisanal jam and marmalade company that got its start selling at local Bay Area farmer's markets, has been experiencing tremendous growth, including a debut in national Williams Sonoma stores, by using cloud technology to stay on top of its crucial business information. Another example is Sixth Course, a pair of artisan chocolatiers who went rogue from their established bakeries and kitchens to create their own local business. Constantly on the go, they use the cloud to manage their business operations from their mobile devices.

Traditional computing required a significant investment of time and resources for installation, maintenance and upgrades. In this environment, smaller companies were constrained by resources and effectively unable to compete with large enterprises. The cloud has removed that burden enabling companies to tap the resources they need when they need it.

The cloud has dramatically impacted the market, shaking up traditional industries by spurring increased competition and igniting a fresh wave of innovation. Small companies and even start-up's can quickly go from idea to launch and seamlessly integrate new services based on customer feedback. The cloud has afforded small businesses with unprecedented opportunities to not only compete, but lead in their industries.

The cloud is more than a means to achieve internal operational efficiencies; it affords small businesses the ability to develop customer-focused solutions. From apps to cloud based platforms, small businesses have a new toolset to deliver their services. In this way technology is no longer a resource intensive silo of enterprise, but a core driver of business development and customer service.