Is your head in “The Cloud”?

dreamstime_xs_36525815I like clouds. I always have. My mother use to always tell me “my head was in the clouds”. I remember fondly those moments as a kid on a lazy summer afternoon lying on the cool grass and gazing up into the sky, imagining different characters created from the cloud formations…..dogs, cats, my wacky aunt with the crooked nose, etc.

Perhaps that is why I like the technology transformation to “the cloud”. With Steve Jobs announcing earlier this month Apple’s iCloud service; there seems no stopping this movement to using the cloud for both consumer and business needs. I just finished attending an informative Webinar from CRN on cloud computing (and Google cloud strategy), which pointed out that the Cloud market will hit $240 billion in 2020 (Forrester) and Cloud computing services is the top CIO priority in 2011 (Gartner).

Whether we are buyers or providers of technology (many of us are both), cloud based software and services transform the way we work, conduct business and in some cases make money. For instance, as part of our International fixed asset service, we uses cloud based portals to manage our technicians across the US, Latin America and Asia. This portal allows our technicians, managers and clients to rapidly communicate requirements and issues from anywhere in the world, using any device connected to the internet. This is critical, when real time communication among multiple stakeholders is critical to project success. As a provider, we offer cloud based software portals to mange reverse logistics. Although this market’s understanding of the benefits of cloud based solutions, I believe we need to continue to refine our selling proposition to reflect the harmony between cloud driven benefits and the core business benefits.

If you are a technology provider, how do you incorporate the cloud trend into your own offering? How do you market effectively? Below is some of my thoughts plus some insight from our partner BrightBlue Marketing:

  1. Realize that offering Cloud Services is a service opportunity, not a product opportunity
  2. Be specific with the cloud benefits to the client; that fits the common client issues faced by the client (such as my above example, the need for real time and documented communication)
  3. Clarify as needed for the market the nuances/differences within cloud solutions, such as just hosted applications vs. shared applications; and the possible related limitationsRemember to emphasize the fundamental benefits of the applications/technology – such as reduced cost, improved customer service, rapid market penetration, etc. Thorough Knowledge of your customer’s specific business issues will become even more important as you offer cloud services.

And if you are a potential buyer of cloud based business technology, and you are not using SAAS or other cloud based solutions, then START. Understand the benefits by using a common cloud application (such as Google docs) and their limitations.

  1. Assess your other core business applications (such as asset management, ordering, etc. ) and determine what gains you may realize, such as reduced cost, richer functionality, more satisfied customers.
  2. Understand the possible trade off if you lose flexibility to completely customize if it’s a SAAS solution.
  3. Cut through both the marketing hype and unwarranted fear mongers. Listen to trusted resources. Do your homework and go to a trusted colleague for insight.
  4. Ensure your cloud solution adequately ALIGNS with your business requirement. For instance, if you need tremendous flexibility to manage and highly evolving sales process, maybe an in house CRM solution beats a more rigid cloud based solution.

Being a fan of clouds all my life, I’m looking forward to the tools and solutions that we bring to our clients as well as those we use from third party partners. But, I think there is no substitute for the Cloud experience of my childhood….I just hope the neighbors don’t panic when they see me laying on the grass in my backyard one summer evening – gazing into the cloudy sky.

Enjoy your own cloud experiences,