You hear loosely quantifiable predictions all the time during events in the cloud communications and collaboration industries:
“The rate of migration to cloud based services is going to rapidly increase…”
But does it ever, really? The rate of change seems to remain pretty constant, maybe increasing slightly each year but there never seems to be a dramatic jump – at least not one dramatic enough to satisfy my thirst for industry drama.
Nobody moves to the cloud for the fun of it
From my experience – which is admittedly limited as I am still young – of speaking to end customers and asking them probing, sometimes personal, questions there is very little migration based on the pure technology benefits. Sure, we all know the cloud is great. It’s flexible, it’s elastic, it’s fast, it’s secure…blah blah blah. I have never, ever spoken to a decision maker in an end user organisation that has told me they moved to the cloud purely because of its well publicised plus points.
Maybe someone did once reason: “well my current system is perfectly good but a cloud based one would be better”. If they have, I have never met them.
There is always a catalyst
Every time a young, trendy, disruptive provider in one of the many cloud, as-a-service, software sectors wheels out a customer for a case study, it goes like this. They do a nice presentation and explain how the new provider’s cloud based comms/contact/collab platform transformed some of their business processes and in turn improved their overall business. They lost less money, had happier customers, sold more hats etc etc.
After their, often rather stilted, presentation has reached its conclusion the walking case study is no longer supervised and is allowed to mingle without a minder. At that point as a journalist or an analyst you have the possibility of talking to them candidly. Every single time it turns out that there is another factor at play – the fundamental reason behind the migration – and it’s not the cloud and its undeniable, apparently universal, appeal.
‘We needed to move offices’, ‘A new executive joined and wanted a change’, ‘We outgrew the old system’, ‘The maintenance got too expensive’, or ‘The old one broke’
It’s not that the cloud isn’t great, it’s just not that great to encourage a move unless you have to. A wise man once told me that business owners maybe rich, but they are time poor. Why spend valuable minutes researching new communication platforms if your current system is working without a hitch? The answer is, that they won’t. It’s only when they are forced, by some form of catalyst, that they will explore new options and almost inevitably – in the case of communication systems – stumble across cloud based platforms.
Spanish flu first appeared in the early months of 1918 before remerging later in the year with devastating global consequences. The horrific lack of healthcare provided by British colonisers in occupied India at the time tragically led to around 18 million deaths as Spanish flu spread through the country. This event – and the gross inadequacy of the response from Britain – fuelled, along with many other issues, India’s move towards independence. The Spanish flu was a catalyst for an unimagined consequence.
Maybe 2020’s serious – yet nowhere near as catastrophic – global viral crisis will prove to be a catalyst in another area.
No-one needs it spelled out. Cloud communication and collaboration platforms are incredibly useful when all of your employees are forced, or choose, to stay away from each other. If you are a business that doesn’t have platforms that can support remote working – even as a fallback option – then you are in trouble when a potential pandemic hits.
The Coronavirus is a global issue and even though it has impacted some geographies more than others, those who have been less affected so far are scared of its disruptive potential. Whether ‘pandemic fear’ is justified or not it has swept the globe ahead of the virus itself. Face mask panic buying and frantic hand washing tutorials are pandemics now themselves.
Maybe this fear will encourage organisations globally to adopt cloud based systems that can manage huge numbers of remote workers – at the very least to be an option in emergencies. Maybe the virus will prove to be the global catalyst for truly dramatic cloud growth.
Or maybe it won’t. Maybe the global impact of the virus will decrease as the summer arrives. Maybe everyone will forget about the associated issues and just a vague memory will dwindle in a CEO’s mind of something to do with looking at platforms that better support remote working. If that is the case – and the importance of remote working capability is forgotten – let’s just hope the virus doesn’t re-emerge once winter returns, as the Spanish flu did back in 1918.