Cloud Computing — Who Really Cares?

Well I do. But not because it’s necessarily cloud, but because it gives me the tools I need to be able to do my job better (or more efficiently). And that’s really the point here. IT as a support service has a role to ensure that the end users have the right tools to do their job in the most efficient and effective manner. Too often the focus is on the IT department and cloud first strategies, whereas the strategy has to be about the end users first.

To 90% of end users (non IT) the fact that the technology we all use every day and take for granted is cloud based is in the main entirely irrelevant. Does anyone using Instagram or Facebook care that much that its cloud based (apart from data protection), what really matters to them is that they can post an image or text or read / see images and text from others. As long as the application they are working on or using at the time opens and lets them do what they need to do in a timely manner then there’s generally very little interest in the technology that sits behind it.

The same is true of most staff that I come across at local authorities, although the same is probably true of end users in most businesses. What they want is an application that opens and works when they need it to and allows them to complete their work in the most efficient manner and is reliable. That may be cloud, hybrid or on-premise.

What companies need to be looking at is the benefits of their technology to the end user and not just the benefits of their technology to the IT department. The benefits to IT are of course important, but secondary to the end users, whether that be customers, residents or staff.

And this is where digital transformation needs a clearer definition. To me the phrase is more relevant when defined closer to ‘enabling transformation through digital tools’. The focus in this definition is on the transformation and not the digital element. Just moving services to digital and cloud is largely pointless without an element of transformation of services taking place first. Where cloud comes into its own is the ability to be configured in a way to enable and support the transformation in a relatively speedy process without huge upfront costs and in an iterative manner.

Cloud computing of course has other huge positives, such as free upgrades, 24x7 access, security, flexibility, pupm price model, mobile ready, infrastructure free which are largely based around IT benefits. But it also provides everyday tools, such as instant messaging, Facetime, ubiquitous access, configurable systems, collaboration tools and joined up services which focus on the end user and can help change the way users work.

As an example, take my industry and an end user of one of our applications, a Planner or Planning Manager — Do we think they care that the latest version of our software is cloud hosted? Or do they want a system that turns on on a Monday morning, allows them and their team to work efficiently, maybe from out of the office, and isn’t subject to large amount of downtime for power failures or essential maintenance or upgrades?

The fact that the system that can provide all these things may well be cloud based is irrelevant to the fact that it just provides them. End users shouldn’t be looking for cloud first systems, they should be looking for systems that meet their requirements as end users. And as end users in today’s world, these requirements should be very demanding. The fact that its likely that only cloud solutions can or should be able to meet their demands isn’t the driver behind their decisions and nor should it be.

It’s time to put the focus back on the users of systems and away from IT’s cloud first strategies. Of course have a cloud strategy, it’s still the right direction to go in, in the main, but temper it with the needs of the end user. After all, are you trying to save 10% of the IT budget or 10% of the Companies / Authorities budget? I know which one I’d prefer. Use the cloud technology to enable your transformation plans, but establish these first. With the tools available to users these days, there really is very little to limit the art of the possible.

Richard Godfrey