Yeepie kay yay cowboys, the Cloud band wagon is pulling into town and it’s creating such a noise that you can’t help but wonder if you should be on it.
What Hoover did for vacuum cleaners, and what Biro did for ball point pens, the term Cloud is set to become the new all-encompassing word for all things digital that we can’t see. Great. For those thinking that this is the plaster/band-aid we all needed – this just spells trouble.
Let’s start from the beginning, with your business. You should be cultivating your organisation like a garden – you’ll have different areas of the garden for different types of plants (management, sales, communication, customer service etc…), each requiring a different degree of skill and character. Some of the plants even work better when placed together (sales and technical support for example) so that each benefit from the growth of the other. When you understand where the sun spots in the garden are and what the weather patterns are like, you begin to build a self supporting structure that can weather even the harshest of frosts. That’s right guys, don’t be thinking that an increase of 0.8% GDP in the UK means we’re in the clear!
If your garden is a bit of a pit and hasn’t been tended to enough in the last few months/years, then it’s likely that weeds have set in and the soil is lacking in nutrients. If you think adding another plant to any part of the garden in these conditions will change things,understand it’s going to struggle to perform and may even die. The idea of cloud for your business, whether you are provisioning it or utilising it (or indeed both) should only be considered if you have your current business affairs in order.
Cloud is not a get out of jail card for those struggling to run a capable business. Cloud is not for those hoping it will be a free meal ticket to keep in the game. Essentially cloud can be anything you want it to be; it’s a concept, a possible revenue and growth stream – as long as you can cut through the gloss and the hype to realise that it’s only going to work for you if you have the right mechanisms in place to support it and do it justice.
Typically the ideas behind virtualised desktops and hosted applications sends the palms of any IT administrator into a sweat. If they were able to ban all users from their beloved networks and award themselves at least three days a week to immerse themselves it all that is new and shiny about technology, then they would be very happy bunnies. But we all know, in real life, users want to play and like to test the boundaries set by their profiles… fancy deleting your inbox or sending out confidential files? Go ahead! Why not test the security policies when you should be working instead!
Seriously though, businesses have been used to leaving all things technical to the IT department. C-level personnel in businesses typically never tried to understand the technology at their finger tips but they’d want all the latest gadgets (‘hey, I bought this shiny Blackberry over the weekend, can you set up my email for me please?’). They wouldn’t choose to understand the importance and the associated responsibilities that came with it… far less interesting and not relevant to the overarching strategies of the business. But now we’re in a different world, the prolific growth in social media and corporate transparency means senior management need to get over their aversion to technology and incorporate it in a top-down policy.
As the mindsets start to change, security becomes a more focussed discussion, more so now that everyday users are more aware of the capabilities technology offers. Software and operating systems progressed to go some way to helping reduce risk and prevent disasters, but a new way of thinking is demanded of business owners and IT professionals alike. Now, rather than fight fires and hide behind the ability to remotely manage networks, it’s time to take the conversations back into the boardroom and educate.
But if there are businesses still not capable of having that opportunity, why on earth would they think they were capable of fully embracing cloud?
It’s simple, because everyone’s talking about it. Just like when the iPad came out, the marketing spin span faster, the demands went up, and people didn’t want to be left out.
Cloud computing is a beautiful thing. It’s a paradigm shift in the way many do business but not just in terms of shifting from an on-premise to complete or hybridised off-site operations but, and more importantly, to the way we talk to our clients and how we engage with them.
Large corporate giants such as Microsoft are all about the cloud but it may be for very different reasons to most of their Partners. Google and third party competing companies pose a real threat to the company that dominates over 90% of the world’s operating systems. Cloud offers flexibility of choice for customers and a new playing field for those who provision it. However, just because they shout about it and they’re quite hard to ignore when they get excited, doesn’t mean that you have to follow… let alone start using the same terminology and acronyms as they do. What you should focus on is what you stand for and serve the best interests of your company and your clients?
Your existing and prospective clients are like the birds and bees to your garden. They’ll only come if your garden is cared for and in a way that doesn’t harm or deter them from revisiting. If your personnel a) doesn’t get what your business is about and/or b) doesn’t understand what this technology does, then be prepared to spend all your time working in your garden and not sitting there enjoying seeing it all come together.
Like the communities you connect with, the marketing you carry out, and the products/services you deliver, it’s all supported by your brand. If you don’t have one or choose to borrow someone else’s then don’t expect your clients to get what it is you do. You may do a wonderful job at selling another company’s product but can you actually articulate what it is your business does? What is it that makes you stand out in the crowd.
Everyone using a computer is experiencing the benefits in cloud in some way; having an IT company come up to them and sell them what they already understand won’t set the world alight. Having the clear headed vision to deliver a support system that enhances their strategy and deliver revenue growth is going to clinch you that business will.
A balanced internal and external approach to the people involved, the products and services delivered, and the processes that underpin the relationships, will be critical to ensuring you aren’t just relying on cloud as a whim. Get out there and understand what opportunities are out there for you, but always bring it back to the reality of your business model. Change and adapt if necessary but don’t jump from one frying pan into the next.
Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow her on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.