How to Use Cloud Computing to Create New Business Opportunities

By now, most of the world has defined cloud computing to match their own use of new services and solutions. Every impacted stakeholder in the organization has their own definition of the “cloud” although they may not know what it means in general to IT industry stakeholders.

To the developer, coding for the cloud means building new, but not entirely unusual, interfaces for accessing and managing data; maybe learning a new protocol or programming language. CIO’s view the cloud as another vendor relationship to be managed with increasing concerns of how someone else is managing their data, making it secure and wondering how they can share that data with other critical applications. Customer-facing leaders see the cloud as a solution for rapidly automating critical business processes without the overhead imposed by CIO’s and corporate standards. Throughout all these views, one thing is common. Stakeholders, regardless of their office location, expect the cloud to be available all the time. Ubiquitous.

My personal definition encompasses the view of all stakeholders and I believe ubiquity is critical in that definition. But I’m more interested in what cloud computing means to my business and those partners and clients with whom I work. I sum that up in one word—opportunity.

Opportunity

Many of you reading this blog are the very developers and solution providers bringing new services and solutions to market and integrating them into your own business. Congratulations! You’re taking advantage of this unprecedented opportunity! You’re using cloud services to develop solutions using Force.com, Microsoft Azure, Google App Engine or even Heroku. You’re hosting your service at Rackspace so you can scale as customer needs warrant. You’re using cloud services to run your daily operations—from utilizing project management tools on BaseCamp to managing internal accounting services and payroll using Quicken.com. Without the cloud, you’d be unable to function.

As for myself, I owe my business success to the opportunities enabled by the cloud. I rely on the cloud to support my own business website. I use the cloud to host and support several websites I developed for my clients using hosting providers that support WordPress, Joomla! and Business Catalyst. I also rely on the cloud for subscribing to administrative services for processing payroll, tax and 401K services. Even my business travel is managed using a cloud service.

The point is cloud services enable my own success in more ways than I ever dreamed. And I’ll bet that, like me, your success is further enabled by cloud services that let you focus on your competitive advantages.

Business Opportunities

Business leaders, especially in today’s economy, must move quickly to drive revenue and profits up or bring costs down. It’s a good thing for them that many of you reading this are rolling out cloud solutions with those goals in mind.

Large, traditional IT organizations have spent the past decade or longer integrating large business systems and data to deliver to their business partners a holistic view of the customer. While this has been successful for many clients I’ve worked with, the counterweight to that achievement is a process-heavy IT organization unable to rapidly add new features. Data models must be modified and coordinated with all users and deployed during scheduled, infrequent releases. This limits a business partner’s ability to react quickly to changing business conditions or rapidly deploy new features to market.

Cloud solutions are attractive to business leaders as they provide an opportunity to quickly deploy new features without following the rigor imposed by traditional IT organizations. As a CIO, I may not be happy about my business partner excluding me from this new relationship, but how can I blame them for taking advantage of an opportunity to grow revenue when my own organization is unable to respond fast enough?

How have you grown your business using cloud services? I’d like to learn from your successes and share with readers in a future post.

Global Opportunities

Widespread distribution of Internet technology to developing countries around the world creates even more opportunities. Competition from service providers in low-cost developing countries will inevitably increase. If you’re sitting there idly dismissing the thought that less-developed countries can compete with you, remember how quickly you set up your hosting and technical infrastructure via the Internet. What prevents them from doing the same thing?

Imagine you’re a young developer in a Middle-Eastern country wanting to learn the latest Ruby technologies. You access the Internet to take a course in Ruby on learnable.com. You build a new service based on Ruby using Heroku. You need help building some of your interfaces so you contract with another developer in Egypt on eLance.com. Once your service is ready to roll out, it’s so successful that you hire more staff to meet demand. Sound far-fetched? Then let me introduce you to my friends in Syria cranking out high-quality Ruby apps.

My point is that cloud services will generate many successful business opportunities in developed countries as well as developing countries. The cost of entering the market is much less for cloud solutions than when we were in a mainframe or even client-server world. There is no requirement that small development shops around the world have to purchase expensive hardware or software. All can be had via the Internet at a fair, equivalent price. But isn’t even a “fair price” out of reach for shops in low-income locales? Maybe, but have you ever heard of micro-financing?

On a parallel track, think of that small business in Ghana and the advantage they could gain over their competition by accessing low-cost solutions via the cloud. By simply using low-cost CRM solutions, they could improve customer service and satisfaction and grow their business faster than their competition. Businesses in developing countries with access to the Internet and modest means can even use the cloud as their competitive advantage.

Are you a cloud solutions provider with many foreign clients subscribing to your service? If so, I’d like to hear from you and share your success with other readers. Don’t worry about spilling secrets. We’ll focus more on your approach as encouragement to others who have not yet attained your level of success.

For as long as I’ve been in IT, the goal has been to provide access to critical data and processes at any time from anywhere. We’ve now reached a threshold of technology where this can be accomplished effectively and at a price within nearly every organization’s budget. I’m thrilled to be working in the IT industry at this time given the possibilities that are now in reach. I hope you are as well and will share your knowledge and enthusiasm by commenting on these postings. I look forward to reading your comments!

CloudSpring will focus on how enterprises, large and small, are taking advantage of cloud computing to achieve success. I’ll look at new cloud services entering the market and innovative ways businesses are using cloud services. I’ll also focus on how small businesses are building cloud solutions to gain access to large, corporate organizations with larger budgets—a key goal for any cloud solution provider.

Image via Bedrin Aleksandr / Shutterstock

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