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Summary:

Selling customers on the cloud as a set of technologies that will improve their business and agility is fine, but vendors need to be able to back up those lofty claims with experienced teams that can really deliver on the promise of the cloud.

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The easy answer is rarely the right answer, which is a hard truth about life in general. In this case, I think it applies to the cloud marketplace. I’m concerned that we are overselling a very good set of solutions (which I will loosely define as “Cloud” options) as some sort of magic pill that will solve their business and IT woes.

Customers have come to understand the potential of having an agile IT environment, but by and large most of them don’t fully understand what that means for their current IT model or organization and legacy environments. I fear that we are heading to a point in the next 12 months where we will see a strong customer backlash in the form of brake lights or return to sender notes.

If your solution can stand the light of day, then you shouldn’t have any trouble helping your potential customers better understand what the adoption of said technology, when done correctly, might mean. You must be willing to make it clear that buying an engine, even a really good one, isn’t buying a car. If we continue to sell engines to mechanics, we must give them the knowledge to build the car. We at least need to help them understand that the engine alone isn’t enough. They need the rest of the car.

Here be dragons

There are several challenges I see developing in this marketplace that will help fuel the backlash such as:

  • Too many vendors who are all trying to gain a foothold before the money runs out or the customer gets wiser, whichever comes first
  • Vendors and service providers that really don’t understand corporate IT and can’t explain in strategic terms how cloud will and should affect the IT group and enable the business at large

There is more to building an agile or fluid IT environment that just creating faster provisioning and or reducing your capex spend and replacing much of it with operational expenditures

  • Confusing messages about what is or isn’t a cloud
  • Large, big box players are attempting to demonstrate their relevance in the new cloudier markets
  • A clear understanding of the links between agile infrastructure and process or organizational change requirements is missing

The challenges here among others lead to a lack of understanding among buyers who then either don’t buy or buy without thinking through the downstream impacts or roadblocks to realizing real benefits.

Help your customer to help yourself

So how to avoid the backlash? Remember that you aren’t selling disk, CPU, or a piece of software anymore. You’re selling a strategic opportunity to your customers and you need to staff up accordingly. Your team needs experience with organizational design and a greater understanding of what business trigger is better advanced by an agile IT environment.

You also need to incent the sales team correctly. Most sales organizations don’t emphasize a long-term strategic customer focus, but rather the effort is on “how much can I sell in the shortest sales cycle or by quarter end”. This tactic for sales might work in the short term, but won’t make you any long-term friends.

Create sales and consulting strategies that take into account the “two ITs” that will continue to exist for the next 7-10 years. A sale to a startup or small business will be very different from a sale to a large established business or an enterprise. The small business doesn’t have the legacy process, infrastructure, and staffing, so their ability to quickly adopt and realize the benefit of agile IT is more obvious. With an enterprise the wrong adoption process will get the CIO fired and could put the business at risk. Doing things more quickly is great, but only if you have the people and process to guarantee that the ‘”correct” things are happening quickly.

Finally, look for the right partners and don’t try to be everything to all people. While most would agree that Amazon has the most feature-rich cloud solution, it offers little if anything in the form of support for how your organization should adopt and integrate agile IT. Other IT team incentives and strategies for making the agile IT change in your organization can be found here.

We read it in every guide for sales and business relationships, “the supplier needs to act as a partner”. If you’re acting as a partner to your agile IT buyer, then you should participate in preparing them to be successful. In no part of the IT market is this any more important than in the cloud space.

Customers must act too.

And customers, I’m not letting you off the hook either. Stop looking at cloud as the “why” and start looking at how an agile IT environment will allow you to deliver greater business value to your customer “whys”. Engage your service provider partner in discussions at the correct levels of leadership (on both sides). Identify third parties that can add value to the mix. In other words, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

This isn’t just a new set of hardware, it’s a change in mindset about how IT serves the business. If we want people to buy into that, we have to educate them, support them and tell them the truth. Then maybe we can avoid this trough of disillusionment.

Mark Thiele is executive VP of Data Center Tech at Switch, the operator of the SuperNAP data center in Las Vegas. Thiele blogs at SwitchScribe and at Data Center Pulse, where is also president and founder. He can be found on Twitter at @mthiele10.

  1. Mostly these decisions are driven by short term qharterly budget considerations. Only when the changes ppl will think long term. That’s just the sad truth

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  2. Michael Lucas Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    I agree with your observations regarding Cloud computing. I get insulted by the name itself when we need more and better transparency for which I have an answer:
    THE CORPORATE BUSINESS INFORMATION UTILITY
    I have an important Innovation for business information that eliminates complications and sophistications while greatly reducing costs giving all business persons the live, unified, complete and correct information they all need and deserve to do their work effectively, productively and efficiently.
    The Innovation uses the latest applicable software to gather all activities as they occur, update the operational/financial performance and status model of every resource and relationship in its corporate files. With this core information, the Innovation converts the corporation into a Corporate Business Information Utility which like an electric utility is always ready to deliver information energy pertinent to each business user’s needs. The Corporation records the area(s) of work assigned to each registered user and downloads what is required by each user’s laptop, pad or phone to convert these into personalized Business Assistants as if each user has top priority.
    With the same source of live, unified complete and correct information extracted from the same source, communication, coordination, cooperation and control, the four key business management Cs, become a standard feature of each User Corporation or equivalent not-for-profit organizations.
    I have the designs of the methodology and architecture (patent pending) that were used to develop, deliver and operate this type of system using 3 prior generations of technology. The design is ready to go live with the latest on-line technology and to keep upgrading as new technology and business management generations come into being. What is required is a small group of young entrepreneurs and the funding to assure new customers that the Corporate Business Information Utility will absorb and deliver all new pertinent Business and technology developments with continuity giving each CBIU a life cycle equal to the life cycle of the User Corporation.
    Michael Lucas
    corpworx@yahoo.com

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  3. Your observations are right. Cloud is driven user expectations, not just by cost and certainly not by vendor hype. The backlash will not be against cloud in general – that’s already here to stay. Vendors who fail to deliver the user experience expected AND the level of quality and security demanded by business, will not survive.

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  4. I’d like to add that getting an enterprise to an all cloud strategy and having to convince cloud provider sales people to accept that my enterprise wants this, is an extra complexity wich I had not expected. What I experience is vendors (traditional and semi-cloud) trying to convince me that hybrid will be the strategy to follow for the enterprise in the near future. All of the big vendors in our current IT landscape fail to deliver on their cloud promise, integration is a major issue, adhearing to internet standards to deliver standard functional controls for the most basic functions is a constant source of concern. I second the call for vendors who take responsibility and know what enterprise computing is all about, not the one’s who always made the quick bucks on selling half a functionality and let the customer guess how he/she can reach the other half. Let the service part in … as a Service be the most important in your selling argument, not the marketing term which starts the whole conversation.

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    1. Mr. Keuter, If you are having problems working with IT providers that don’t see the value in creating an all electronic solution, I would encourage you to take a look at http://www.geoAMPS.com. They have entirely electronic solutions that are tailored to the individual client and a service team that has earned the organization the reputation of being a technology partner.

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  5. Mr. Thiele brings up valid points in his posting about the potential backlash from underserviced Cloud clients.If I may offer, geoAMPS, LLC, addresses the concerns that Mr. Thiele presents, building Web-based software products and relationships that last. You can find a blog post about the topic here at the following link. 

    http://geoamps.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/web-based-cloud-computing-is-good-for-business/

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