I wrote a blog, “Race to the Cloud”, about taking into consideration all the Pros and Cons before making a decision to build an application for cloud or hosting a service on the cloud. I got a lot of good feedback based on which I want to share what I see as the new trend in corporate world. The underlying theme, at least in my mind is the same as my previous blog but I will try to be more explicit in this one.
A friend of mine attended a CTO conference couple of years back and he shared that the theme for the conference was ‘New IT’. In reference to that conference, ‘New IT’ was about companies presenting newer versions of their solutions with additional functionality in front of CTOs in an effort to sell their products. However, for me, based on feedback and discussions with a lot of friends and colleagues, “New IT” is about bridging the gap between consumer world and the corporate world. Making business applications that allow effective management of time yet are a lot of fun to use. Think of a CRM system that is as fun as Facebook. Yes, there is a correlation as Facebook, in a way, is a contact management application. If that happens you will not have to check on employees to keep them from logging into Facebook in office hours. Mobile access to business applications that allows getting things done in a cool, sleek and time efficient manner. Applications that allow and facilitate team collaboration and insight. That is what New IT should be all about. In order to get there the race between Line of business applications in terms of functionality needs to end. Business applications no longer need to have a checklist of functionality with one application being better than the other based on additional features. The differentiator should be usability and design that makes the application likable. Users want to log back into applications not just because of pending work but also to explore additional functionality and enjoying the experience as they get their work done. Application still needs to provide functionality to get work done but the focus needs to be on user experience and customer delight.
“New IT” as defined above is where I see Cloud computing delivering on its promise. Applications hosted on the Cloud by Oracle, MSFT, Google or other service providers expose the functionality and features that address a business problem like CRM application helps manage customers, Agile PLM manages product life cycle, SharePoint manages documents and team collaboration, e-mail applications manage messages and go-to meeting or webex help manage meetings. These application are exposed via web services to end-users and Partners for them to use the functionality as well as extend the applications. Users and Partners can benefit from this opportunity to build add-ons, extensions, mobile applications and enhancements on top of the hosted platforms to improve user experience and make these applications fun to use. As the core functionality is already available so the focus needs to be on user interaction. This can help in bridging the gap between consumer and corporate space as IT team working for a start-up or tech savvy end-users are not bound to follow processes, procedures and get feature set approvals to have certain features/changes incorporated in the product lifecycle. Small Product companies leveraging cloud solutions are more likely to be innovative and creative about their offering than big corporate giants.
In MSFT eco-system, MSFT expects the partners to play the “New IT” solution provider role. In my viewpoint some of the challenges related to that are based on the way partners operate in addition to how MSFT pushed its cloud offering in the beginning. MSFT message related to Cloud offering always had an underlying theme of cost savings which in my viewpoint was not helpful. If MSFT had just focused on cloud offering as a recipe to undo the pains associated with managing and hosting applications that would have been a much stronger message. “MSFT cloud services to make your lives better by easy to manage and ready to go products” sounds better right? On the other hands as most of MSFT Partners, at least in CRM space, are service providers so they tend to align themselves with MSFT marketing message. Partners focused more on how to reduce CRM setup time and fulfill client expectations to pay less with cloud offering than on how to add more value. MSFT helped train partners on how to sell in waves and reduce sales cycle but not on how to leverage xRM to deliver more value. Independent Service Providers (ISVs) have built add-ons and applications but again the focus mostly has been on the feature set. I believe that going forward the companies that would flourish would focus mostly on “New IT” which is bridging the gap between corporate and consumer world. Building fun to use applications that make our lives better.