Those who think the cloud is just a delivery mechanism miss these crucial points: Cloud computing helps enterprises adapt to change, extend their global reach, and accomplish their overall business objectives faster. Cloud solutions can be everywhere, or just where you want them. With the cloud, you can transform and connect processes better than ever before.

Businesses today embrace next-generation platforms that form a busy intersection of cloud computing, social networks, mobile computing and analytics. Social networking technologies extend the boundaries of our communities on a massive, global scale. Mobile computing enables people to interact whenever and wherever they choose—both with each other and with information.

Billions of devices send data back and forth through these layers of computing. Analytics make sense of these data streams, enabling people to make better decisions. But cloud computing is the glue that holds all of this together. It provides new options to deploy these systems in an environment that has ubiquitous network access and rapid scaling—and you only pay for what you use.  That’s a silver lining that should have the budget holder right up there on cloud nine.

Today’s businesses are more global, more interactive and more dynamic than ever. Most companies introduce new architectures all the time just to keep up. Combine these complexities with the endless pressure to deliver new systems faster, and you’ll see why IT service provisioning isn’t enough anymore. No matter what the industry, enterprises need cloud deployment to stay competitive.

But cloud computing isn’t just about technology. It’s about a whole new way of working. Every day, innovative companies realize new ways to use the cloud to deliver ever-greater business value. The newest area ripe for improvement is business and IT process automation. Business and IT processes are notorious for including a multitude of manual steps that are costly, time-consuming and prone to errors. Meanwhile, constrained budgets force IT and business to make the best use of all of their people. For both groups, automation is the clear solution to unnecessary manual effort.

According to CIO Insight in early 2011, {} “…by 2015, Gartner anticipates that cloud computing will hasten the use of tools and automation in IT services, resulting in a marked increase in productivity levels for service providers and a reduction in their costs of delivery. These tools and automation solutions are expected to eliminate 25% of IT labor hours.”

Clearly, a 25% reduction in IT labor hours would make an incredible difference to the bottom line of any organization. However, great as it sounds, switching to cloud automation might not be as simple as you first think. You still have to go through the pains and hurdles of deployment. What if you don’t have specific in-house expertise or knowledge on how best to automate a specific process? Even if you do, your resources may be tied up elsewhere.

Don’t give up yet. The cloud facilitates solutions to these problems. For example, an organization might start by automating its ERP system’s copy process, then its business intelligence reporting, and ultimately move on to its financial closing process. Eventually, all of the organization’s business and IT processes become automated. The cloud makes this whole process easier to do and connect with, offering a way to solve immediate, smaller automation woes, and then grow as the company matures during on-going automation deployment.

As the need for specialist expertise grows, the cloud again provides solutions. Automation through the cloud means the user doesn’t have to invest in new software or infrastructure. That way, a solution-delivery partner doesn’t have to wait in line behind a software or infrastructure decision before it can start to deliver customer value. Eliminating these barriers to entry enables the creation of a global, cross-industry partner ecosystem to implement best practices in cloud-based enterprise process automation.

Now businesses and IT can automate and connect specific processes using bundled consulting services with automated processes. For example, if an enterprise wants to automate its enterprise software updates, it can now go to a website and find an app to do this. At the same time, it can work with an expert who can assist with automation deployment and process improvement. This applies to every single business and IT process, from shipping to payroll to data load.

This revolutionary way of working demands cloud enablement, but it promises tremendous benefits. It breaks down traditional barriers of time, cost and speed. It connects multiple companies, skills, services and geographies—quickly and easily. By enabling automation through the cloud, organizations can focus on their core business strategies and goals, and connect business and IT processes wherever they want.

Tijl Vuyk is the founder and CEO of Redwood Software, which offers cloud-based business process-automation services.