Why cloud for business is different from consumer apps

Advice Peter Chadha Dec 12, 2012

Should business software be as easy to use as consumer apps? There's a reason why it's not says Peter Chadha

One of my all-time favourite quotes is from leadership guru, Abraham Maslow (yes, he of the Hierarchy of Needs) who once said: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you see every problem as a nail”. Unfortunately, the cloud is starting have a similar effect on business leaders in the UK and around the world.

I recently sat with one such individual: he ran the latest Android phone, had hot and cold-running iPads, a PC, a laptop – the list goes on.  Almost his entire personal life, at least in digital terms, is spent in the cloud.  He also run a major international company, with 12 offices across different parts of the globe.

Every time we meet, I’m greeted with news of the latest Android app that provides the flight details of every aircraft at Heathrow, with an instant booking service and expense form filler attached; or a data storage solution that can upload and download files while simultaneously translating them into six different languages. All of these take just 20 seconds to download and install to a tablet, and cost less than a glass of Chablis a month to run.  And the question that always accompanies this news? “Why can’t you do this with my business applications?”

And the simple answer?  “Because it isn’t that simple!”

An injection of reality
While I am a cloud evangelist, it has also created personal expectations that are simply unrealistic in a corporate environment.  Applications, templated solutions and data storage can be set up in minutes by individuals with a waft of a credit card and a click of a mouse.  Not so a cloud-based enterprise solution, because it involves interdependencies, security, people and process change issues.

To create an effective, sustainable, cloud-based business environment, you have to undertake the following at the very least:

  • Trace your legacy – this will be a constant theme in my column. It is essential to understand the systems and software already in place in your business, and how cloud services will interact with them.
  • Index all of your data – so that it provides consistency across the entire business and can be easily recognisable and accessible once stored in the cloud.
  • Examine our covenants – some data, particularly personal information, have strict covenants attached which can restrict its location, transfer and accessibility.
  • Sort the adults from the children – cloud applications are very far from mature – even Microsoft, Google and Amazon-based services.  In some cases, cloud suppliers are barely more than start-ups with a good idea and a bit of funding to try and make them fly.  It is critical to research suppliers and their products before heading for the cloud.
  • Look at training – it’s fine to download an app to your phone and spend time over a coffee working out how to use it.  But, this won’t work for your staff of 2,000 sat in offices in Europe and Asia.  Training before you implement a solution is critical if you don’t want to witness business meltdown first-hand.
  • Ask an expert – well, I would say this, wouldn’t I? But the truth is, given the above list, independent specialists in cloud implementation can save your business tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds.  Not just in identifying suitable cloud applications, but also in preventing you from making fatal errors that you could live to regret.

 

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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