The Cloud – The dilemma of long term strategy vs. a rapidly evolving ecosystem?

The word ‘Cloud’ to me denotes a vision on the evolution of user-centric computing. To some, including a senior party to HP’s strategy (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons), the expression seems to be abused and over-hyped. Let’s face it; it’s a term that most of us can assimilate. Most of the people I speak with seem to understand its general vision and pretty much its implementation; but let’s not haggle over semantics shall we? What’s important is that it’s a valuable proposition to businesses and users alike.

Having had my rant, let’s move on to my observations on the real issue that I’d like to discuss. Having been party to discussion with a number of sellers of Cloud solutions, both at the OEM level and the channel, what’s clear is that the Cloud sales ecosystem is in a state of rapid evolution.

While Cloud providers and those implementing inter and intra-company Cloud solutions find it relatively easy to understand the opportunity for value add, many who’re more used to delivering more bounded hardware led solutions find it difficult to justify a move from traditional sales propositions.

Understanding value and opportunity is a challenge in itself; especially where there are lots of anecdotal indications but fewer proof-positive references (yet) to return on investments. Having said this, the challenge to the hardware focused business partner who may be content with their current offerings, is not only how to justify a change, but how to enable it.

In recent discussions with IBM their strategy is itself in an evolutionary trajectory. This in itself is a good thing. One must be cognisant of the need to learn and change in such a rapidly evolving area. Discussions at their influencers’ conference and more recently with Bob Hoey GM General Business indicate an escalating focus on the channel; more customisable solutions and an increase in partner enablement and sales and marketing support. Good news for both existing and new partners looking to take advantage of the opportunity. In return for this increased support partners must be open to change.

Most will agree that change is never easy. Indeed change for change’s sake may, more often than not, be a recipe for disaster. But when faced with the looming headlights in the Cloud tunnel one needs to make sure that hands are firmly on the steering wheel to avoid any approaching collision.

One final observation; extending a predominantly capital hardware deal leveraged business to one more based on client solution value over time drives the need to view on the opportunity over the longer term. Lest we forget, the shift to a Cloud enhanced business model is evolutionary not binary. Customer take-up will be driven by business dynamics focused more often than not on simplification, integration and of course value proposition. The channel’s coverage of small and medium sized businesses provides them with unique role; acting as trusted informants with influence on end user decision making.

I believe that customers are much more aware of the value and opportunity for IT than ever before. If they believe that a suppliers’ bias is in deriving short term revenue as opposed to delivering longer term value to the client’s business; trust will evaporate. It’s difficult enough to keep existing clients – it’s even more difficult to recruit anew.