Will 2012 Be the Year of the Cloud? Or Is That the Wrong Question?

I was amazed – but not surprised – to read that more than 7 million new iOS and Androids were registered during the two days of Christmas. Registration occurs when someone turns on a new Smartphone or tablet PC for the first time. The average per day is 1.5 million – still a large number. What this tells us is that more and more people are going mobile, downloading apps and browsing the latest information just by touching a screen. To consumers – meaning everybody – mobility is no longer a gift; we take it for granted. It shapes the way we communicate, do business, consume IT, and collaborate with customers, partners and even competitors. “Social” is the big trend which will influence all these parts.

And “Social” and “Mobility” are closely related to cloud. Most people get used to having access to their friends, the wealth of information on the Internet and the convenience of ever-present cloud services very quickly. After a short while, they don’t want to do without it. If you don’t believe me, watch a kid when he gets his first smart mobile device. Within a few short days, the device becomes a natural means of keeping in touch with all the other kids. The same is true for us grown-ups, albeit at our own pace.
However, when the holidays are over and we return to our workplaces, we often feel like we are being stopped in mid stride. Want to set up a new process or application? Your company will tell you that it has to order new hardware, software licenses, install it and then – let’s say in four weeks – you can move on. That is so old-fashioned, isn’t it? Regulations, bureaucracy and a traditional approach to IT hinder us from applying the tools and software we use so naturally in our private lives. We often resolve the dilemma by disobeying the rules (let’s be honest) and by using our private toys and tools at work or just subscribing to a public cloud service. Have you asked your CIO? He would surely have a lot of arguments against it. However, if you asked the CEO of your company, he would probably say we need these people; we need exactly this kind of culture, speed, result oriented, collaborative – that is the way the business works these days.
I hope you are satisfied with your Christmas gifts. If you have a problem with one of them though, chances are that you will have to deal with traditional support hotlines and disintegrated processes that usually spoil your customer experience. Why not, for example, integrate all the processes in cloud fashion via an interactive Web page with a fully customer-oriented experience? It should include social networking features to interact with the company of your choice. Why? Because according to ComScore, roughly 20 percent of the time we spend online involves social networking. In 2007, it was only 6 percent. (They don’t say how much of that takes place at the workplace but I’ll bet that percentage is rising as well.) Three out of every four minutes spent on social networking sites are spent on Facebook. Digital natives – the future customers and leaders of our companies – have reduced their e-mail communication by 22 percent and their instant message communication by 42 percent within one year while communication via social media has increased by 34 percent.
It would thus be fatal to ignore the disruptive force of ubiquitous cloud services and social networking. Many of you might claim that nobody really ignores them but, at the same time, we‘ve got to admit that most of us are still not fully utilizing the potential of social networking for our customers and our companies. In my view, it is not because of market conditions, technological or legal restrictions, etc. Instead, it is because organizations are not ready for a disruptive change, not ready for a change to their mindsets, not ready to accept that business as usual will no longer work. The change, however, is inevitable.
Quite often, I hear questions like “When will the cloud finally break through?” In my view, this is not the right question. Instead, you should be asking yourself when you can benefit from the huge opportunities that come with the cloud. Mobility and Social are only two of them; I will talk about some others in my next posts.
If you ask me, I think 2012 will be a good year for the cloud; it will be an even better year for you if you start asking the right questions now.

Andre Kiehne

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