Imagine you are running a cosy, successful coffee bar in the centre of your old town. It’s the only one there and you seem to have built your own base of regular customers over the course of years. Then, one memorable day, Starbucks suddenly moves in at the other side of the street.

Kind of a life-changing experience indeed.

It’s tempting to discuss the proposition of Starbucks in terms of taste, quality and concept (the Italians for example, have a specific opinion), but the success of its highly standardized portfolio, repeatable process and excellent service is undeniable. So no matter what, a new benchmark to beat has been set and your business will change, for good or for bad.

Similarly, the recent news that Amazon is supposed to be planning a local presence in my home country (yes, you try Google Translate on that), is bound to shake up the existing leaders in online retail. They will not be facing just another competitor, but a de facto standard against which all others are measured.

Could work out just fine though, as a catharsis really, that makes them discover again what drives and differentiates the company, resulting in a revitalizing impact.

CIO’s should take notice, also because the very same Amazon is now banging at their doors with the Amazon Web Services marketplace: a neatly organized self-service catalogue of cloud business solutions in all major categories – many of them based on open source – with transparent, highly competitive, usage-based pricing.

It may not just yet be a global industry benchmark, but clearly, more and more IT departments will notice that their business users start to compare them with it. Can you do that too?

Again, not all organizations will necessarily be ready – if ever – to procure their IT services from public marketplaces like Amazon’s. But all of them will feel the pressure of the new standards in pricing, quality and flexibility and need to adjust accordingly. If done well, the result could be a refresh of the IT services catalogue, combining the new normal that already has been established by the cloud with the unique needs and capabilities of the organization.

Starbucks – and Amazon – as role models for change and revitalization of the IT department. Take a good cup of coffee, and think about it.

p.s. we will see more and more examples of the seemingly unbeatable combination of open source solutions and cloud provisioning. Take the recent announcement of ‘messaging as a service’ by my Dutch colleagues (oh yes, you try Google Translate on that) which runs Zarafa’s open source collaboration software on a highly scalable cloud.