The Customer is Always Right – But Do You Talk to the Right Customer?

The Customer is Always Right

Where there is light, there is also shadow – to paraphrase the German poet Goethe. It’s true: everything has two sides. Take the German virtue of Gründlichkeit (thoroughness). Just one day after receiving the Experton Cloud Award, I attended the Euro Cloud Conference in Cologne, giving a keynote about “New IT, new Business”. I had high hopes since I felt the organizers had paid great attention to detail by choosing a location with the very promising name of Wolkenburg (cloud castle). During my keynote I clearly declared the end of the cloud hype – it is reality! However, I was astonished to find some analysts actually who downplayed the opportunities that the cloud presents and were focusing only on Infrastructure as a Service. Especially IaaS has reached mass adoption and is a commodity. It is now the fourth utility beside gas, water and electricity. What was even more disturbing was the number of analysts who professed great skepticism about cloud services. I wondered whether this could be true. Are we living in two different worlds, or is this simply another example of human behavior?

Some of the analysts stated that their research showed that cloud adoption was still low. So far, so good, but that definitely got my attention. Then they presented a study in which the target audience for assessing cloud adoption was composed of people from finance and IT departments. That got me wondering. “Hey guys! Finance and IT?”It’s true that they used to have the greatest insight into what was happening in companies IT-wise. However, that role is changing dramatically with the cloud. If you want to know what’s happening in the cloud business, you have to talk to the people who are using the software – the business units – and not to the people who are buying it (sorry IT, I will come back to you in a minute).

The reality is that cloud services are already quite prevalent in business units, especially if we consider the BYOD trend. Just think of Dropbox, Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter and the like. People use all of them enthusiastically. Nevertheless, the transition from the ‘old model’ to the ‘new model’ is still deemed something special. That is no longer the case in real life. Or as Twitter user @PentadocDaddel comments on a recent study by Cap Gemini “Our IT directors still don’t get what bookkeeping wants” (

Users quite often consider IT departments to be ‘late adopters’ when it comes to cloud services. Residing at the (former) source of all IT – in their center of power – they simply do not feel the need as much as the service-starved users in their business units. Central departments are therefore bypassed quite often because cloud services (notably software as a service and business solutions) are quite easy to subscribe to. Cloud services are also quick to deploy without cumbersome installation cycles, approvals, etc.

This is a dangerous situation for IT departments. And dangerous for all of us. Fear among IT managers might be an effective way for some critics to gain an audience. It is only human to seek attention, but simply saying ‘no’ to the cloud or even fuel these fears with some so called statistics may seem shortsighted in the near future. Or do you remember a single name of any of the ‘experts’ who proclaimed that steam railways were evil and that a human being would simply not be able to survive speeds greater than 25 km/h?

We thus have to make sure that IT departments are involved. They need to drive the change. Up until now, the greater part of their work has consisted of time-consuming administrative tasks like license management or hugging huge hardware forests. With cloud computing, businesses have a great opportunity to free their IT departments from such menial tasks and enable them to concentrate on their core task: aligning IT with business goals and users’ needs. This will mean a shift away from administrative work to creative work, something that will benefit the entire company.

What’s most, it will enable IT departments to focus on their real target groups. Rather than complaining about hesitant acceptance,I think that the critics need to ask themselves who the real customer for cloud services is. And if people really are hesitating to adopt cloud services, why are they procrastinating? The answer may be very simple: cloud computing has come very far in a very short time and some people are not used to this kind of speed. Take the Gartner hype cycle. You could say that the hype of inflated expectations is over and we have long been in Phase 3 or even 4. In other words, we are somewhere between the trough of disillusionment and the slope of enlightenment. To me, this is actually good news because it means that Phase 5, the plateau of productivity, is within our grasp. And an even more disruptive change is most likely just around the corner: the democratization of Software . So let’s embrace the cloud now in order to be better prepared for it!

I appeal to you IT analysts out there to encourage decision makers to be part of the cloud before they fall behind. Consider that you might need different or additional target audiences when conducting your surveys, and remember; keep your head up high in the cloud!

Yours sincerely,

André Kiehne

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