It may be a matter of getting used to it, but clearly the hay days of cloud evangelization are over. Our own research and daily experiences* show that especially at the business side the benefits are very well understood, including many that surpass the obvious cost benefits. Actually, business people are often so convinced of the value of cloud-based solutions that they might be pushing their IT department to move faster.
A refreshing change of roles indeed.
It makes the question of where to begin all the more relevant. As many organizations still struggle with uncertainties around security, integration, robustness, manageability and technology platforms, we find that the best opportunities for leveraging the cloud are often close to the edge. This principle is best applied in a generous way: there are many different edge areas where exciting things might happen.
First of all, there is the edge of facing the market. The closer we are to our customers the better, after all. In order to create a superior customer experience, we need the next generation of solutions that brings us the social networks, the analytics and the multiple channels that we are all quickly getting used to. Almost as a default, these new solution platforms are delivered through the cloud, with salesforce.com as a notable, still expanding leader.
Secondly, there is the edge of business expansion. We might be adding new activities to our existing processes or even considering entirely new business activities. Considering that start-up companies without a doubt turn to cloud solutions to set up their IT landscape (you would, in a role as their CIO), it makes sense that larger enterprise mimic this behaviour for their new activities. Think social customer relationship management, collaborative procurement, talent management and anything ‘smart’ (such as smart energy) as new business areas that should be driven by cloud-based solutions.
Thirdly, organizational edges are quite interesting. There may be newly acquired companies that need to be quickly integrated, geographically remote subsidiaries that are difficult to manage centrally and business units that have differentiating requirements that cannot be met by the organizational core. This is where the ERP-like functionalities of emerging SaaS providers such as NetSuite provide quick, local flexibility** and still can be relatively easily connected to the central systems (a nice way to keep central systems simple and standard too, for that matter).
Finally, there is the technology edge. From the perspective of the IT department, wherever we are exploring new technology areas – such as mobility, social, business process management and real-time insight – we find the best opportunities to leverage the cloud; not only at the infrastructure and platform levels but also through a powerful catalogue of SaaS solutions and web services.
So let’s stop evangelizing, get out of the shadow and move close to the edge. It’s where the clouds are and the sun is shining.