Race to the Cloud

So Cloud is real and here to stay. It is great that there are solutions ready to go and available on-demand. In addition these solutions are really easy to setup. They don’t scale down necessarily but still I buy it, you can add and remove the resources based on your requirement. Let’s not talk about PAAS or IAAS for a second. Let’s focus on SAAS. What is the driving force that is pushing companies like MSFT to invest so much in SAAS? 80% of their resources are working on Cloud related applications so they have decided in which direction they are heading. As always consulting companies are following suit, and my company is no different.

However a completely different phenomena is driving the consumer space. Everyone has a mobile device and Native apps are predominantly considered a lot more Cooler compared to web apps. Like everyone else I want an app that serves my needs and runs best on my device. I want something that solves my problem. Yes if that application solves other problems as well I understand that but it has to solve my problem in a cool way to be part of my application pool on my device. One tends to think that there is no difference between applications on cloud and application in mobile space as they are both built from the perspective that many users have the same requirement. So isn’t it the same thing? Does it not imply that Cloud would encourage us to build applications for a large audience with similar needs and same happened with the applications in App Stores? Unfortunately not in the corporate sector.

In industry the solutions that are being built on the cloud are generic. They solve problems. If they don’t solve a certain problem then features pertinent to that business area are added and the same product is sold with a different spin. SalesForce, Oracle and Microsoft add features to their CRM to make sure they don’t lose out on a business opportunity in a particular industry vertical. I am sure it holds true for other applications in the corporate sector.

Huge investment on Cloud infrastructure by Corporate giants drives the marketing and sales initiative for Cloud version of the solution and as a result clients are racing to the cloud. CIOs want to win this race. They want to be the flag bearer for such an innovative initiative. However there is no innovation associated with Cloud. There is no “My Problem” being solved on the Cloud. Applications on the cloud solve a stated problem as they exist on the Cloud and Consultants map that existing cloud solutions to their business problem to the best of their abilities. That is the best that one can get out of Cloud. There is no “My Solution” anymore. There is a race between vendors. If SalesForce has 100 features then Microsoft wants 101 to convince their Clients that their version is better.  Isn’t it drastically different from what is happening in App Stores? App Stores are innovation centers. They are beyond feature set and focusing on usability and user experience.

This is not happening in the Corporate sector and the way it is going we are moving away from it. The gap between consumer space and corporate space is widening. Talk to a business user or a marketer who deal with technical resources and they will tell you that their personal IT rocks but corporate IT sucks.

I was excited about Cloud because I thought of it as an App Store. I want to think of Cloud as a tool box that users as well as corporate users would leverage to solve their problems. However unfortunately corporate users are owned by corporations and they can never be independent. If this race to Cloud continues then all we would have is companies with data on Cloud accessed through browsers. What purpose does it serve?

Does it make the life of my employees better? Does it make them more productive? No it certainly does not. Instead of focusing on solving business user problem we are focusing on IT. Yes IT, because Cloud is all about not having to support your applications, not having to sign M&S contracts, not having Change Requests as all of a sudden the World has converged and if I have a problem then someone else must have had the same problem. So Cloud is IT saving not IT innovation. Cloud investment must force the solution providers to innovate. C-Level executives cannot just invest in Cloud because MSFT, Oracle or SalesForce told them so. They have to ask questions that would help the market evolve.

As the gap between consumer space and corporate space widens it presents an opportunity to bridge this gap. Consulting companies should focus not only on solving the business problems but also on the user experience and usability. Innovative Business solutions with easy to use interfaces that solve a business problem should drive the business, not the shelved solution on Cloud. We want to build applications for corporations to solve their problems that would make the life of corporate users as easy as mine sitting at home and planning my vacations in Bahamas using amazing Apps on iPad. Till then please don’t try to win this race to Cloud as it would take you no where.