Influential people - how do they benefit cloud implementation?

Opinion Peter Chadha Feb 22, 2013

Robert Cialdini's guide to influencers within companies has a lot to teach small businesses about cloud

As a legacy of my academic days, I still enjoy reading. Now, management gurus and self-help books come and go – some sink without trace, but some drop one or two pearls of wisdom which I still find can be applied to the ‘day job’.

One such ‘guru’ is Dr Robert Cialdini who, in a similar way to Stephen Covey and his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, has identified six Drivers of Influence.  In essence, Cialdini believes that these key elements can act as powerful catalysts to influence other people’s behaviour.

The theory could be applied to cloud and the continued need to persuade organisations of the benefits

Having explored Caildini’s theory further, I started to think how it would apply to IT consultancy in general and people’s approach to the cloud in particular. I realised the theory could be applied in many ways to the development of cloud and, in particular, the continued need to persuade organisations of the benefits:

Reciprocation – built around the principle of ‘give and thou shalt receive’, reciprocation is the feeling of the obligation people feel to repay something that has been given to them.  In previous columns I have talked about the potential benefits of cloud and collaborative working and reciprocation is a strong element of this.

The fact that people are more willing and able to share interesting or important information with colleagues – or even complete strangers – has made reciprocation a powerful tool of influencing cloud take-up. This increasingly positive approach to collaborating draws people into the process - partly through curiosity, but more significantly because they feel an obligation to give something equally useful back.

Consistency – According to Cialdini, people feel a strong natural pressure to be consistent in what they say and do and others respond more positively to a consistent message.  A fairly regular criticism of cloud IT was that both vendors and IT managers were inconsistent in the benefits they ‘sold’ and the actual functionality of cloud solutions.

As cloud computing matures, these inconsistencies are starting to disappear and there is a clearer match between claims and what cloud can actually deliver, for example, the cost savings that could be achieved.  Maintaining this consistency is essential in influencing a positive attitude towards cloud.

Social Proof – In the early 2000s, Cialdini was publishing his Drivers at the time as social media was taking off.  Although he wasn’t focusing on the web, the theory of social proof is well evidenced by the fact that people increasingly make purchases – particularly of technology – based on peer reviews and recommendations.

Client case studies, departmental successes and positive reviews are good tools for persuading individuals and organisations of the benefits of cloud solutions. There is no question that personal experiences are some of the strongest influencers of behaviour, particularly when it comes to trying something new. Which leads us to…

Liking – Not related to Facebook ‘likes’, but Caildini’s theory could just as easily be applied to them.  He claimed that people are easily persuaded by other people they like. Thus, the use of departmental ‘Champions’ who are popular with their colleagues to demonstrate the benefits of cloud solutions is a very influential approach. Vendors are equally likely to influence prospects by showing examples of success within other organisations that they know are admired by the potential client.    

Authority – Less about ‘liking’ and more about ‘obeying’, this Driver of Influence is based on the fact that people will tend to follow the lead of people in authority, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the activity.  From a positive perspective, and certainly this will come as no surprise, a ‘top-down’ approach to implementation of cloud solutions, is likely to be more influential in persuading other staff members of the benefits of cloud solutions.

That being said, as I’ve mentioned before, there is always the danger of board ‘evangelists’ who don’t recognise the difference between the simplicity of downloading a cloud app on their smartphone and a company-wide cloud IT integration.

Scarcity – Perhaps the one element of Influence that is the least applicable to cloud right now. Caildini suggests that perceived scarcity will generate demand.  However, there is no doubt that limited offers or ‘buy up-front for a year and receive priority support’ deals can be positive sales influencers for cloud vendors.

Peter Chadha

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Peter Chadha, is managing director of DrPete Ltd, an independent strategic technology adviser. Peter has been identified by IBM as one of the top 50 IT commentators in the UK, and is a regular commentator on TV and in the press.

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