Last week, I attended Saugatuck Technology’s inaugural Cloud Business Summit in NYC. An invitation-only event, the summit brought together 125 senior business and technology executives. I thought the presentations and panel discussions were high quality and informative.
The summit focused uniquely on cloud business and highlighted how cloud is not just an enabler for improving the agility and cost efficiencies of existing business but also how it can be a great strategic weapon to create innovative business opportunities in the future.
Here are my thoughts and takeaways from this event:
The discussion around the “what” and “why” of the cloud still rages on
To some extent, this reflects the early stage of cloud adoption among enterprises, not to mention the variety of — sometimes questionable — value propositions from the different cloud services and deployment models. That said, as companies begin undertaking serious cloud projects, we will see the discussions move more from the “why” and “what” to “how” this year.
It’s still early days, but cloud adoption is taking off in a big way
Sand Hill’s recent survey of 100 software executives indicated that the customer adoption tide turned in Q4 of 2010 and is accelerating. The reality of this trend was evidenced by the many cloud projects that executives are working on within their companies today:
- Chris Perretta, EVP and CIO of State Street Bank are spearheading a major application portfolio assessment and migration project with the help of cloudTP (one of the sponsors of the event).
- Hubert Gassner, CFO/CIO of Invensys, controls implemented a full manufacturing supply chain solution using Plex.
- John Schloff, VP of Strategy at Pitney Bowes, launched cloud-based communications solutions called Volly.
The cloud is not an end in and of itself
Cloud is one of many technology tools in a company’s tool bag. Eric Armor, the president of Xerox Graphic Communication Group, said it best: “Don’t get caught up in the hyperbole and cloud-speak.” Common sense dictates the need for companies to begin with the customer needs and an end goal in mind and then see if the cloud is the right way to meet those objectives.
One big advantage of the cloud is how it enables companies to collaborate and network, thus creating a multiplier effect on the business opportunity. Cloud can help in so many ways to enable collaboration and community throughout the ecosystem of partners and supply chains.
The role of IT will change fundamentally in the cloud-driven business world
For the longest time, IT was internally focused on technology, servers, networks, and software and got so much mired up in the complexity that they lost sight of how they can serve the broader business objectives. It’s no wonder that 80 percent of IT budgets are spent on “keeping the lights on” maintenance activities, leaving precious little for innovation and value-adding business activities.
The cloud is putting the spotlight on the need for IT to transform itself into a business innovation partner capable of delivering a competitive advantage to the business. IT needs to move beyond being a department that simply functions as an operational cost center into a business growth enabler.
Mike Wilens, President of Corporate Operations and Technology for Fidelity Investments, delivered one of the most entertaining presentation on this topic: “Are users truly determined to end-run around corporate IT when it comes to Cloud?” His key message: IT needs to “get in the boat.” Cloud is happening with or without their involvement. They can be part of the problem or part of the solution. It’s their choice to step up to the plate and work cooperatively with the business to create opportunities in the cloud and lead their companies into the new world of cloud solutions.
Kamesh Pemmaraju heads cloud computing research for Sand Hill Group. Follow him on Twitter @kpemmaraju.