Ever since the term ‘cloud computing‘ became popular in the business lexicon (only a mere 9 years ago when Amazon introduced the ‘Elastic Compute Cloud’ in 2006), it has represented all that is changing around us.
The reason this one concept is the driving force behind digital disruption is that “The cloud aims to cut costs, and helps the users focus on their core business instead of being impeded by IT obstacles.” (Quote from Mohammad Hamdaqa (2012). Cloud Computing Uncovered: A Research Landscape. Elsevier Press. pp. 41–85.)
“Cut costs” – the magic words every CEO wants to hear!
However there are two sides to this evolving story. One side excites CEOs. The other scares them to death (or at least should).
On the excitement side is the opportunity for a company to achieve exactly what Hamdaqa said; i.e. innovation and efficiencies from the cost savings that cloud-based solutions can deliver.
The other side is the scary one for CEOs of (mostly) large, traditional companies who are, or will be, under serious threat from startups who can launch a viable competitor primarily because they have equal access to the low cost/low IT effort enabled by cloud computing. Hear that sound? It’s the barriers to entry coming tumbling down as startups launch new banks, shops, stock traders, accounting services, publishing, and a myriad of other consumer products and services.
I call this scenario ‘storm cloud computing’.
Here I describe some cloud-based services that are disrupting the way business is being done at the start of the era of ‘storm cloud computing’.
It might be no exaggeration to say that Google is a bigger threat to traditional business practices than any other company. Not only do they literally ‘own’ the global search market that drives trillions of dollars of e-commerce revenue, but they offer a vast array of free and paid web services for any business to use.
The most potent is the Google Cloud Platform, “a set of modular cloud-based services that allow you to create anything from simple websites to complex applications.” Services include website hosting, data storage and (big) data analysis, gaming platforms, mobile applications, plus many other useful IT services (see graphic below). That’s an all-encompassing solution that any business can leverage.
Unlike the free tools offered by Google (such as Google Docs and Google Drive), Cloud Platform is a pay-per-use model. The website says they have a “quick and easy way to estimate your costs” – however it appears to me that you’ll need an IT degree (or an IT expert) to answer most of the ‘questions’ in their price calculator!!
Google Cloud has some mega-companies using the service, e.g. Coca-Cola and Best Buy, as well as many startups. So in one sense it is democratising access to sophisticated IT services. Whichever company can extract the most value from this platform can obtain an advantage that may help them succeed in their marketplace or industry.
This is a real ground-breaker. Modlife is a web-based platform set up by Tom DeLonge, ex-lead singer of the band Blink 182. It’s been around since 2007, but only seems to have got some serious musicians involved in recent years – such as Kanye West and Jack White. DeLonge’s philosophy is that artists (particularly musicians and filmmakers) have more to offer customers than just a single experience like a song download or watch a video clip.
He created Modlife to combine multiple content pieces together in one sale. Such as a song download with an item of merchandise; concert tickets and a VIP backstage pass; or a movie plus a poster signed by the lead actors.
Modlife has a revenue sharing model that (apparently) favours the artists, allowing artists to more profitably sell directly to consumers. Platforms such as this provide an example of ‘storm cloud computing’ that will threaten traditional distribution models used by publishers of music and film.
For more background to the Modlife story, read this FastCompany article.
Need a slick looking website? For free? Try Weebly where “Over 20 million people around the world have started a site.”
This cloud service allows anyone to create a professional website by choosing from more than 100 themes than can be customised to suit any need. There’s a free version and a premium option from just US$4/month. And it’s available in 12 languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Polish, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Turkish.
Whether you want a great looking website, to publish a blog, or operate an online store, Weebly delivers a solution “that works brilliantly across computers, phones and tablets.”
Services like Weebly demystify the process of creating an online presence for a brand or company. This puts enormous pressure on professional website developers, enterprise content management systems, and highly experienced digital designers/programmers. Everyone in the digital marketplace is getting squeezed by the plethora of free/low cost solutions that are available. The survivors will adapt to this environment and work out where they can add value.
Zendesk launched in Copenhagen in 2007 but is now based in San Francisco with offices in Europe, Asia and North & South America. They claim to have 45,000 customer accounts in 140 countries. The company has revolutionised customer support with it’s software that enables an after-sales support team to manage and respond to all customer needs. Their product tour is worth scrolling through to see how a simple website can explain a company’s offering with clever interactivity that ends with a tempting free trial period call-to-action – “Go ahead. Take it for a spin.”
Pricing starts at just US$1 per agent, per monthand the top tier price is only US$195/agent/month. So it’s easy to see how this platform can save an organisation a ton of money whilst simultaneously improving delivery of customer support.
This is a company with a sense of humour too; check out the video titled ‘S*** support agents say‘. And it must have the hippest 3 character code on the NYSE – ZEN.
So, “the cloud has spoken” (apologies to Survivor). If you are not actively using a cloud-based solution, or seriously planning to deploy one for your business, then it’s time to go…out and find a cloud platform that will save your business time and money…and maybe even literally save your business.