Note from Lionel: Rhonda Abrams is the Small Business and Entrepreneurship columnist for USAToday, the author of the bestselling business plan guide in the US – Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies and more than 15 other books for entrepreneurs. Her books are used in 22 of the top 25 entrepreneurship programs in the US and been translated into more than 30 languages. She is the President of PlanningShop, creator of content for entrepreneurs.
Register for her free business tips newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com, “like” PlanningShop's Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter @RhondaAbrams, Below is Rhonda's third guest post. You can read her other posts Eight New Year's Resolutions for the Cloud and When You Think Cloud, Think CRM posts by clicking on those links.
The other day, I saw a TV commercial for a consumer product, and the ad mentioned, off-handedly, that the product was connected to the cloud. The product being advertised wasn’t a tablet, smart phone or other popular consumer device—perhaps it was a car or household appliance. But when I heard the ad mention the cloud, it hit me—the cloud’s not just for techies anymore.
Face it, the cloud has arrived. It reminds me of a familiar turning point back in the 1990s when you no longer had to explain words like “Internet,” “online,” and “Web,”—people knew what you were talking about. Mention the cloud now and odds are folks aren’t just looking at the sky – the cloud’s now mainstream.
But once a technology achieves mainstream status, we demand more from it. That’s because our needs and expectations for a mainstream technology—rather than an experimental technology—differ. We move away from a technology that’s only for “early adopters” who put up with instability, unreliability, and lack of performance for the joy of being the first to explore a given technology. Instead, once we depend on a technology to run our businesses, we demand minute-by-minute reliability and performance.
Business managers and IT personnel have eagerly embraced the cloud because it provides solutions to things they need done. But they bring a different perspective to their evaluation of cloud solutions than early tech tinkerers (or as I very fondly refer to them, “techies”).
Here’s what today’s business cloud adopters look for:
- A “toaster,” not a tool box. By toaster, I mean that cloud solutions for businesses now need to be more like a mechanism that enables users to perform critical tasks easily and reliably, without needing significant expertise. They want their cloud solutions to increase productivity rapidly and give them powerful capabilities they didn’t have before, or couldn’t get without significant effort.
- To configure, not customize. Okay, maybe they want a “toaster oven”—by which I mean, companies looking to the cloud need the ability to adapt cloud solutions to their particular needs, industry, and business style. But they don’t want to spend the time and money it takes to build applications and solutions from scratch.
- Here-to-stay, not fly-by-night. When a company adopts a cloud solution as an integral part of day-to-day business, it wants to make sure its provider will be around for the long run. The reality is that many of today’s cloud application providers won’t have long-term staying power. Companies can’t afford to bet on a horse that might be scratched from the race.
- Best of breed, not best we can find. To be competitive, companies want the best tools out there. But it takes time—and expertise—to figure out what the best solutions are. A reliable partner can help them identify best of breed cloud solutions.
- Integrated, not independent. Stand-alone applications inevitably mean lack of productivity—often requiring double- or triple-data entry and making it difficult to extract crucial business intelligence. When solutions work together, we save time and money and have greater insight into how our companies are performing.
- Trust. At the end of the day, what businesses want most are solutions and providers they can count on. They want powerful functionality now, continual improvements to make sure they always have the most up-to-date capabilities, customer service when they need it, and world-class security.
Because the cloud is now mainstream, and business customers demand trustworthy partners, we’re now seeing major players, such as Dell, enter the arena. They know that business customers want a reliable partner for the long-haul, with the resources to continue to provide top-of-the-line performance, and the commitment to customer service they demand. And they want one point of contact, so they don’t have to deal with many different providers, keeping track of many different sign-ons.
The reason the cloud has entered our common consciousness is obvious—the cloud presents so many benefits, that once you know about using the cloud, you want more. Whether it’s a consumer storing music, pictures, and phone numbers—or businesses, wanting to be more productive, reduce headaches and costs—the advantages are clear and immediate.
I’m particularly attuned to all things cloud because I have a new book coming out in April, Bringing the Cloud Down to Earth. Get a free digital copy now, though, thanks to Dell Cloud Business Applications by going to www.dellcloudapplications.com. Bottom line- the cloud’s now for everyone. Businesses. Consumers. You. Me. And, yes, even techies.