The silence of the cloud: What is truly driving growth – and what should be?

Opinion Cloud in various iterations has been around now for approaching 20 years (longer if you go back the concept of compute as a public utility introduced by scientist John McCarthy in the 1960s), many remembering seeing iterations such as the ASP (application service provider) as a failed step along that journey until we matured to the SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and varying other ‘as a service’ offerings now in the market.

We have witnessed the varying vendor hype marketing around ‘all in’, ‘everything cloud’ to more recent brandings of ‘fear no cloud’ and even the race to zero – the phrase used to describe the rapid price reduction on IaaS and PaaS offerings from the big name lead technology vendors in cloud, implicating someone will one day give it away for free.

Cloud has driven a behavioural change in business and its people enabling lines of business to navigate around the CIO and tech policies to get things done. Through utilisation of their own budgets and cloud switch it on capabilities many have gone the way of ‘shadow IT’ subscribing to cloud-based systems without IT knowing of the use or budget and changing the landscape of consistent procurement, integration and security across the business.

Some business leaders embrace this departmental agility and work to bring it into an aligned strategy, while others resist fighting this new mantra. We live in a time when compute and its use and responsibility in business is rapidly under change. Witness three types of fundamental business driver – those where:

The CIO reports into the CFO and we see the behaviours of a cost reduction business
The CIO reports into the CEO typically resulting in an innovation focused business
The CIO reports into the CTO resulting in a product focused company
In the innovation business, (the ideal state of successful growth focused firms), gains being sought include an optimisation for the business, an aim for frictionless operational processes and better business insight for smarter decisions; these lead to a focus on revenue value-add and lesser of a focus on cost saving to the business.

There are often three barriers for change and innovation in a firm that hinder cloud adoption; culture, tech religion and politics.

Where you find an agile born in the cloud company, the culture leads to fast adoption and leverage of new emerging tech and receptiveness to fast change. Take a legacy firm, where change has always been slow, leadership is from the old world and you more often find a lethargy to change, projects that take years and often get deferred time and time again and an environment where by the time change happens its already time to start changing again as the market has moved on. These firms are those that face the greatest risk of disruption and we are already seeing a growing number of long existing big brand names across sectors struggling or even going out of business.

Tech religion
Another frequent hampering is the technology religious debate, where the organisation’s strategy becomes aligned to a specific vendor brand. When asked what their IT strategy is, in other words, the resulting answer should not be a brand name!

Becoming agile and having a strategy aligned to process and methodology improvement not a vendor brand, allows for the mixing of technology approaches, platforms and brands as and when applicable. In the old tech world this would have aligned to being a Unix, Lan Manager or Windows NT house instead of an agnostic approach, using Unix, NT and perhaps VM for example, mixed and integrated where applicable for the best business outcome.

Finally, politics comes into play where an organisation finds itself going against performance indicators and best logic; doing it through emotions of people due to brand favouring, historic bias or existing skillsets.

Businesses additionally are challenged to bring together legacy in alignment with new innovative technology offerings to not only become agile but allow agility to scale across the organisation.

Oracle reports client engagements of cloud evolution as having four main themes; a need for modern data management, a shift to the enterprise, a need to be agile to scale, and for all the new tech to show a fundamental positive impact to revenue results

Often businesses are too focused on getting ready for the coming storm; defending their base; instead of focusing on the challenge of constant innovation and agility. We live in a time of the ‘art of data’, where data insights and data itself are often the currency of value and what drives the success of a business. What data tells us and enables us to do is more critical than ever in the world we reside in; without this we would not have the services we rely on daily such as Uber and Amazon and the Facebooks would not exist as free services. Data itself and how it is purposed has a high value in today’s economy.

We can expect to see a continual hype of technology types; cloud, big data, AI, IoT and the like; however, the real focus should be on the outcomes, the creation of success and meeting the needs of the future customer be they external or internalised through leveraging of the most relevant tech available as an enabler.

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