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How to Win Big When Cloud Computing Is Pervasive

Don't settle for anything less than what you really need to succeed in the coming year

Some people are never satisfied. These fearless agents of change are everywhere. They're informed, confident and willing to experiment. They seek out the best business technology solution for the job at hand. They act on instinct. Yes, you could say that they're driven.

However, they're also at risk of being labeled as "rogue employees" because they ordered a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering and perhaps expensed it without prior approval. Sometimes they're the champion of progressive projects that are referred to as Shadow IT -- intentionally bypassing their company's formal evaluation and procurement process. How can this happen?

Is it just because their activities are tolerated, or are they being encouraged? If so, by whom? Why would any business leader applaud a team member that breaks the rules? Maybe, the simple answer is that staying within the confines of the status-quo won't enable a top-performer to fully apply their talent, achieving their absolute best.

On the other hand, having a defined structure does provide benefits. Clearly, standardized business technology purchase processes are often chosen to create a manageable IT environment. But those guidelines also need to be flexible, to accommodate exceptions to the rules.

Truly, this scenario creates a dichotomy; one that will likely occur at greater frequency -- from within the smallest business to the largest enterprise -- as more companies encounter rapid shifts in global markets that tend to reward the most agile and responsive competitors.

Ongoing Quest for Strategic Advantage
As a senior executive, you know that business technology will always be a key part of your own forward-looking planning process. It's assumed that information and communication technology (ICT) will continue to be the business enabler of the 21st Century.

But these platforms are often just the table stakes that enables your business to participate in the Global Networked Economy -- they're not the actual source of a sustainable strategic competitive advantage.

In 2003 Nicholas Carr wrote a provocative article for HBR entitled "IT Doesn't Matter" -- where he suggested that once a technology achieves ubiquity, then the focus must shift to differentiated applications that are very difficult for competitors to replicate. Likewise, in time, cloud will become commonplace. So, when that eventuality comes to pass, what comes next?

That's when value-adding vendor offers of guidance on how to achieve distinct business outcomes will have the edge in this rapidly evolving marketplace. When evaluating cloud companies, such as Cisco, look for a vendor that offers deep domain contextual guidance at every stage of the cloud evolution cycle, for each of the major industry verticals, and for all the key stakeholders within your diverse leadership team.

This will help you implement a cloud-first strategy that brings together your organization, cloud partners and providers, and other technology vendors to form a portfolio and strategy that is open and secure.

Moving Beyond Basic Cloud Readiness
If your organization is an early-adopter of cloud computing, then you're already ahead of the game. You probably know how cloud services can be applied to help you achieve your desired business outcomes.

But are you seeing the full depth and breadth of the upside potential opportunities? If so, then are you ready to respond -- just in time -- when your top performers are ready to act on the next wave of cloud-related capabilities?

According the latest findings from the Cisco Global Cloud Index, 2014 will be the first year when the majority of workloads shift to the cloud -- it's estimated that 51 percent of all workloads will be processed in the cloud. By 2017, it will expand to 63 percent of all workloads.

Furthermore, if you've been following the key business technology trends, then you know that the evolving cloud services debate now incorporates the advent of mobile internet applications -- many of which are inherently cloud-centric. The virtual mobile office will gain momentum in 2014.

Preparing to Navigate the Internet of Everything
When the Internet emerged just over two decades ago, at first it wasn't clear what -- if anything -- would be significantly impacted. Today, we can point to numerous examples of how it has removed traditional boundaries to market entry, leveled the playing field, or recast a legacy industry landscape. Certainly, the disrupted media and entertainment sectors will come to mind.

But what we're about to see will make that transition pale in comparison. The Internet of Everything will change all kinds of industries that may have seemed unscathed by the prior disruptions. For the adventurous among us, that means a vast array of new opportunities.

And yet, many of the same core business-related challenges will likely remain constant. New venture capital investment will still be in short supply. Top-performing employee talent might be difficult to hire and retain.

Meanwhile, cloud services will be abundant. You'll have a plethora of choices -- including public, private and hybrid cloud offerings. But so will every one of your competitors. Therefore, you'll need something extra special, something that truly differentiates you in the marketplace.

If you want to win big, then you'll need to apply the best and brightest minds -- to uncover that special ingredient. Be prepared to seek help and ask for guidance from those who have "been there, and done that" type of forward-thinking ICT project before.

Value-adding vendors have savvy business consulting and technical services staff, plus a multifaceted ecosystem of integration partners that you can depend on to meet your primary goals and satisfy the demands of your top-performers. Be wise, choose carefully. Don't settle for anything less than what you really need to succeed in the coming year.

More Stories By David H Deans

David H. Deans is the Managing Director at the GeoActive Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in the Technology, Media and Telecom sectors.

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