Business in the clouds
A recent study showed that over 80% of IT decision makers at UK financial services firms are agnostic to cloud providers. The reality is that overall service is now more important than anything else when it comes to choosing cloud solutions, which is making this buyer’s market a challenging place for providers.
Staying open minded
To deliver the best systems for their business, IT decision makers have to be open-minded when it comes to choosing a cloud provider. After all, delivering technical and business outcomes will always be the main priority when choosing new infrastructure, regardless of who provides it.
Choosing cloud providers used to be much more multi-faceted, but now it's a simple decision based on cost and functionality, with businesses going for providers and technology that are fit for purpose and available at a sensible price. All other past concerns, such as contractual terms, SLAs, support and the like have fallen away as the market has equalised in these areas.
At the same time, delivering business services from cloud platforms has become commoditised and simple to implement in recent years, so people are now looking for competitive advantages. For example, many are now looking for additional insights that will help them identify areas where they can deliver increased value, both within their businesses and for their customers.
Adapting to meet demand
Businesses always want to go faster, always want more, and always want something better, and this will continue to define service provision for the foreseeable future. A brief look at the processor market over the last couple of decades shows that we can never really go fast enough for customers, so as data volumes ramp up and the demand for instant access to information increases, speed will remain a massive factor.
This is a positive development for the cloud market, as IT teams are now engineering solutions based on technical architecture and, ultimately, focussing on what businesses need. Firms are therefore mixing and matching new entrants, software solutions, and hardware with public and private providers. In this way, everyone is in a position to benefit, including the existing market and the end customer.
Standing out from the crowd
The cloud market is now very mature, so every IT provider should be able to deliver at least a basic service, i.e. maintaining operations, keeping customer data secure and providing a good level of support. As a result, firms need to find other ways to differentiate themselves.
The best opportunity for providers to set themselves apart is through innovation, particularly around integration and by offering insights that are focussed on performance. Innovative pricing models are also very effective, as is targeting the needs of particular markets and sectors.
The optimum way to do this is to deliver 'customer success' and be able to clearly demonstrate these benefits to the wider market – particularly in that customer's own business sector, and ideally their own region/country too. The cloud market is still large and global in terms of providers, so a lot of customers have gone snow-blind to general marketing; announcing that you are the fastest and have the best SLAs just doesn't cut it anymore.
Instead, the end customer wants to see and feel what the provider has done for their peers – it needs to feel real and tangible to them. They not only want a provider who understands their market, but also the intricacies of their business, as the commoditisation brought by cloud is leaving the customer wanting more. Even more important, they want a relationship with a business that understands their challenges and opportunities and can ultimately give them a competitive advantage.
By Robert Rutherford, CEO of IT consultancy QuoStar