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The Faster Horse – Cloud Computing is more

October 4, 2012

One of the famous statements of Henry Ford is “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse’.” Why is this statement relevant for a cloud computing discussion? Quite simply this is because today cloud services for enterprises are sold as the faster horse rather than the creator of new opportunities.

Where the T-Model was not new in a sense that there have been cars before, the key invention is not mass production (that is an enabler) but the way to address new target customers and new scenarios. If it would just have been the transport of a single person from A to B horses and trains would probably have been sufficient. But The T-Model addressed new scenarios as well.  Put a belt on the axle of a T-Model and you can operate machines which is a business benefit especially in the agricultural scene. Here the horse could just not compete.

So is cloud computing now a faster horse or a Model T? Actually it is a bid of both. Much like the T-Model improves cost and transportation load, cloud computing surely reduces cost and improves performance. But if you sell it just on that, you sell it short. Cloud Computing is so much more and the one who is able to identify and much more important tell this story to his customers will be successful.  It is all about the business benefits.

Imagine that your story is not about making the price per mailbox cheaper but enabling scenarios of mobile collaboration, of event management with reduced effort of enabling a better parental break process and much more important a highly improved integration of mothers (and fathers) coming back to business after a break.

One of the effects is that the decision power moves – from IT to business departments – from IT to end users. You think that is overrated? I do not and my best prove is the widespread use of iPhones and iPads as supported IT devices. No and that is a 100% no. Still even enterprises that stick to Windows XP do have these devices in the range of supported IT equipment.  Business departments will need flexible access to development platforms, sandbox system environments, etc. The challenge for IT is that they are not willing anymore to order these internally, wait for provisioning and so. The same happens in the collaboration space but let’s look at that specifically from another perspective.

Many, especially in Germany, perceive cloud computing as risky not to say too risky. But not to participate in cloud computing is a risk in itself as well. Imagine that you do not offer comparable services. What will happen if someone needs to share a file with a customer, colleague, partner but mail does not work due to the file size; a collaboration platform like e.g. SharePoint is not available or not accessible from outside of the company. The solution to the user is to utilize a consumer cloud service like Dropbox. You may forbid your users to do so but it will happen nonetheless. The business need is there. Another example is voice and video. Your internal system does not offer any UC or requires a separate telephone dial in for voice? Your user will jump to e.g. Google+ Hangouts. The crux with these systems is that they are completely outside of your control, contractual, security wise and from a content ownership perspective.

The answer is you need to find the right mix. This also opens a huge can of worms with regards to management and control of the multitude of services. To manage a more complex environment calls for new services which create a layer to ease up this management for customers.  A look at these services will follow in one of the next blog posts. Stay tuned.

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