Using Cloud Services to Remain Competitive


 Gavin Payne is a principal architect for Coeo, a SQL Server professional services company, and a Microsoft Certified Architect and Microsoft Certified Master. His role is to guide and lead organisations through data platform transformation and cloud adoption programmes.

Knowing how and when to adopt cloud services is now more than a technical decision for businesses. The risk of their vendors and competitors having faster adoption plans increasingly risks making the un-decided become un-competitive.

Cloud computing is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, change to IT since its creation. Within a few years, every business that uses IT will use some form of cloud services. 

Software vendors are increasingly moving to the more predictable recurring revenue models cloud services offer while being able to provide new functionality to their customers the moment it’s ready. IT departments are using cloud services to deploy their next generation platforms when they need them but only for as long as they need them. Meanwhile, power-users sat deep within the business and clutching its credit card are ready to use online click-to-subscribe portals that make shopping for new IT capabilities as easy as ordering pizza.

Categories of Adopters

Whenever new technologies emerge, their rate of adoption over time is predictable. In the 1960s, Everett Rogers created a theory known as the Diffusion of Innovations that helps to explain the different paces of adoption consumers have.  He identified six categories of adopters that follow each other as they choose the right moment for them: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, Laggards and Leapfrogs. 

50 years on, his theory is still relevant. Vendors use it to market their wares appropriately. Closer to home, businesses should use it to check whether their initial reservations are still valid or if they’re on a slow path to becoming un-competitive compared to their less sceptical peers.

The Beginning of Phase Two for Cloud Adoption

Knowing how Rogers classified adopters, cloud services have now had their innovator and early adopter phases.  Digital era companies like Uber would never have had the growth they did if they were constrained by on-premises IT or multi-year managed service contracts. Fuelled by highly educated and technical teams close to the decision makers, the innovators and early adopters comfortably traded risk for capability.  Perhaps un-expectedly, their technical adoption decisions also earned them business kudos. They became the poster children for the vendors. It became interesting to know that Aston Martin had started using Office365.  A car company showed technology leadership wasn’t just for technology companies anymore.

The Rise of the Fast Followers

With the first phase of cloud adoption over, now is the time for the fast followers – what Rogers would call the early and late majorities. These IT decision makers couldn’t afford the risks that came with being first but who can’t afford to be third. 

The pressures of remaining competitive will now increasingly influence an organisation’s cloud adoption strategy. The risk of a critical vendor adopting a cloud-first – or cloud-only – innovation strategy needs to be mitigated, not just considered. While no one is suggesting vendors will abandon their on-premises IT obligations, leaders need to ready for their capabilities to involve the cloud. Even when a vendor offers both cloud and on-premises options, the agility the cloud option could give a competitor needs considering. Would it let them try a new business model with failure being an affordable option? 

The Potential Cost of Ignoring Cloud Services

Competitors stealing a capability advantage might be one of the biggest risks of not having an action-ready cloud strategy but not the only one. Existing vendor innovation is increasingly cloud-first while modern vendor innovation is increasingly cloud-only. At the same time, the skills in the marketplace aren’t staying still. In just a few years’ time, it’s unlikely computer science graduates will be familiar with today’s on-premises IT systems or the programming languages we use on-premises today. Already in some commercial technology areas, the “digital-divide” has created its own “cloud-divide” – those who know cloud and those who don’t.

What Does This Mean?

If this article could make just one point, it’d be that cloud adoption now needs to be part of a business’s strategy not just IT’s. Previously, IT leaders generally considered the technical advantages of adopting cloud services, now they need to consider the business drawbacks of not adopting them.

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