The impact of cloud computing is a profound change in how we live our lives and conduct business. Whether in an office or on the road, accessing information on demand is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity. It doesn’t matter if I’m purchasing a book on Amazon or trying to find the latest sales data from my CRM system. If I can’t access information when I want it and in a format I like, I’ll find a company that provides it to me in the way I want to consume it.
Because of these market shifts, just about every business is talking about the cloud. Companies are responding to cloud computing in very different ways. Some are transforming the way their entire business operates and some are just adding cloud to brochures. For some its strategic and for others its just a checkmark to add to a list of product features.
Another change that’s driving the move to the cloud is the consumerization of IT. In the last few weeks, Apple announced its iCloud service and an update to iOS 5. Samsung and Acer are shipping Chromebooks using Google’s Chrome OS, and Microsoft previewed Windows 8. All of these rely on the cloud. People use tablets and smart phones in their personal lives and they are demanding applications for these devices in the workplace. The Apple iTunes store and Android Marketplace have changed how we purchase and consume applications. People want a simple app that lets them access the information they need. Most likely that information is in the cloud.
So how do you go about transforming your company into one that focuses on the cloud? Here are two examples of companies that did it.
Microsoft’s CEO stated in its 2010 annual report, that 90% of Microsoft’s 40,000 engineers would focus on cloud-related products and services in 2011. Everything Microsoft does is focused on the cloud. The company mentions the cloud in its advertising, social media engagement, presentations, brochures, analyst briefings, you name it. Its office products and its games are in and connect to the cloud. It’s a strategic imperative for them.
Another example is Ford. Clearly Ford doesn’t provide software or hardware to consumers and businesses. It makes cars and trucks. But Ford understands that technology is such an integral part of people’s lives, that it’s incorporating apps and cloud services into its vehicles. In March 2011, Ford and AT&T announced a partnership where AT&T will offer wireless services for the new Ford Focus Electric. The service will transmit vehicle data to a cloud service operated by Ford, allowing owners access using any Android, Blackberry, iOS or web-enabled devices. The mobile app, MyFord Mobile, allows owners to remotely view and control the vehicle settings of the Focus Electric.
In both cases, each company is taking a strategic view of the cloud and using it to transform their products and business. For some business, its more important to transform the way their internal operations run. This could be using SaaS and other cloud offerings to eliminate cost and streamline access to information. Not every technology business will provide its customers with cloud services, but many will. If you decide to provide cloud-based products and services, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Have you developed a cloud services strategy?
- Have you invested in marketing and R&D to support cloud services?
- Are cloud services integrated into your product and services messaging?
- Do you use cloud offerings in your daily operations?
- Is social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) integrated into your marketing?
- Do you provide Android, Blackberry or iOS apps for your products and services?
Hopefully you answered Yes to a few of these. Depending on your business, you will have more or less complex initiatives around each. At a minimum, customers need to access your technology in a way they prefer. Today that’s through mobile devices.
Cloud computing is not a fad, but a fundamental shift in how businesses and consumers work and purchase goods and services. Companies should place significant emphasis on developing a cloud strategy and communicating it in all internal and external messaging. Designating a senior executive to oversee and coordinate activities is the best way to get it done. Whether you are big or small, you can get some benefits from cloud computing and services.
Do you have a cloud strategy and is it strategic to your business?