By Tom Fedro
Today’s executives face issues yesterday’s didn’t. This isn’t to say today’s businesses are completely different than those of the past. I’m a firm believer that business fundamentals are the exact same today as they were two hundred years ago. Everything still comes down to creating a product and selling it for more than it costs to make it. Now, though, the product is often virtual or intellectual in nature, and the ability of a company to sell it is influenced by a great deal more than the quality of the product, not the least of which is the rapid change in technology and game-changing alterations of needs, expectations, and therefore buying habits of the customer.
Take tires, for example. We’ve only had pneumatic tires for about a century, and they’ve been prevalent for less time than that. Thousands of wheel manufacturers had to adjust simply because a man wanted a bicycle tire for his son in the 1880s that would handle rough roads. Some of those tire companies were able to adjust to the sudden change in the marketplace, and some couldn’t. Other examples are even more profound. Carburetors gave way to fuel injection, for example. In some cases, entire industries were built out of needs previously unknown or unexplored. Cell phones make landlines almost irrelevant from a residential standpoint. Digital delivery of music has devastated manufacturers of machines designed to play non-digital media. The list goes on.
So how does an executive charged with the vision and direction of a company stay on top of what might happen tomorrow? After all, just getting where we need to be with our current set of tasks can be overwhelming, right? I believe the answer lies in the perception of the business itself. If you believe, for example, that you’re in the backup and recovery business, you might have a problem. Turn it around and say your company exists to keep information secure. Think you’re in the burger business? I think you’re offering customers food quickly and conveniently. Maybe there wouldn’t have been such a lapse in healthy choices at the big fast food companies if they’d thought that way.
The point of all this is that we need to be committed to what our products do for our customers, not what our products do from a technical standpoint. It does us no good to make great carburetors, no matter how much quality control we put in place. We can make the best steel rings ever produced to line our wheels, but it doesn’t do us any good. The key (and the hard part) is realizing when our product, no matter how stable and well thought out, has become our goal instead of our means to the goal.
By Tom Fedro
Okay, I understand the reasoning behind it. The blogs you’re supposed to write to catch the eye of your potential reader should be list based. FIVE THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT BATMAN. TEN SURPRISING TRENDS IN DESIGNER SOCKS. EIGHT REASONS TO EAT POTATO SKINS. THE TOP FIVE REASONS TO DRINK A GALLON OF WATER EVERYDAY. These lists are everywhere, and since I focus on technology, I invariably end up reading a ton of posts. I’ve been struck by the number of lists coming out about the cloud.
- Five Cloud Computing Trends for 2015
- Seven Cloud Computing Trends for 2015
- Four Big Cloud Computing Trends for 2015
- Five Cloud Computing Trends That Will Be Big in 2015
- Four Game-Changing Trends Coming to Cloud Computing in 2015
Why is everyone hyped up about the different trends in cloud computing? The answer’s simple. Cloud computing is the current future of technology in much the same way that hosting was once the current future and networking was one the current future and ecommerce was once the current future. We’re in the midst of the process of cloud computing becoming a mature industry and a mature technology, and in the midst means it’s in flux. In flux means speculation, and speculation means “Four Trends You Can Expect in 2015.”
If we add up all of the unique trends we’re supposed to see, there will be hundreds of them, so I prefer to think of the cloud in much the same way as I think of all technology. We call departments that handle it IT, Information Technology. Cloud computing is all about information management, disbursement, storage, and dissemination. It’s the logical next step in the information age. If I had to bet on the future of cloud computing, I’d focus on the information. How do the so-called trends indicate what cloud computing will do to help its stakeholders store, access, and utilize information. Any other approach might make a good title for an article, but it misses the point entirely.
By Tom Fedro
John Wooden, the greatest basketball coach of all time, said it best, “Never confuse Activity with Accomplishment.” One of the most difficult aspects of managing a start-up company is dealing with the excitement level of the new venture and essentially reining in the tendency to believe that constant activity for activity’s sake is critical at all times. In the nineties, led by an almost euphoric market and the ability to tack “dot com” at the end of anything, one could watch stock prices soar as investment capital flew in and companies filled giant break rooms with ping pong tables, arcades, snack bars, and more. Everything was exciting and fun, but in many cases the activity wasn’t anything approaching good business. (This isn’t to say that amenities for employees can’t help attract and keep good staff, it just illustrates the frenetic pace of business in emerging markets.) A few years later, the tech “bubble” imploded, and the net result was a great loss of shareholder value, layoffs, and paper millionaires realizing they had non-paper debts.
Technology itself has enabled a single person to create a great deal. In the time it takes me to write and post these words, I will likely have also checked my email, sent correspondence via instant messaging, and arranged travel for a business conference. If the average businessperson accurately listed the tasks undergone in a particular day, the results would be surprising. At first glance, the sheer number of items completed will tend to create a sense of accomplishment. Who wouldn’t be proud of checking off thirty or forty items on a list? Dig a little deeper, though. Take a look at the tasks and determine which of them actually resulted in a benefit to the company? How many of them helped to fill a day but really meant less to the success of the venture than the time spent with them?
Now, multiply that activity by the number of employees working for you. There are certainly hundreds of activities happening every day that likely don’t offer anything in the way of accomplishment. This doesn’t mean your employees are bad or shirking duties. They probably go to bed at night just as tired and just as overworked as you do. It does mean, however, that every employee ought to learn what tasks impact the company. For example, I have known salespersons who spend hours “preparing” to make phone calls and others who stay on the phone constantly but somehow can’t consistently close business. I’ve known programmers who can write beautiful code but spend their time on features that have little benefit. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of management to take the best efforts of the employees and ensure that they are directed properly for maximum effect, to turn the activity into real accomplishment.
How much of what your company does is just activity?
By Tom Fedro
The cloud as a computing concept is relatively new, though it had its roots in central database management that’s been around before the personal computer. Still, outsourcing not only data storage but also applications and customer management technology is a new concept that’s rushing forward with the kind of intense inevitability that has a great many technology pundits excited (and sometimes I think we get excited just to get new buzzwords and new acronyms) and more than a few businesses confused.
Vendor relationships require work, and vendor relationships that are technology based require even more work. While individual projects (when done right) will include a thorough needs assessment and a path toward meeting those needs within budgetary guidelines, when a relationship will be ongoing and mutually reliant, several issues present themselves. A cloud company such as a customer and relationship management hosted application or even hosted email like Google Apps is in the business of developing software, not handholding. A company that offers financial services isn’t looking to learn the ins and outs of a piece of software but instead to gain from its functionality.
We can think of cloud software a bit like we might a car. Sure, we need to learn to drive it and sure, we ought to know how to fill it with gas, check the oil, and keep the tire pressure up. Except for enthusiasts, though, none of us want to be to the mechanics. Businesses are a lot like us. They want to use the software and are ready and willing to perform basic minor maintenance, but they don’t want to waste company time and resources dedicating heavy intellectual resources into the process. So, while value added resellers can certainly tout the advantages of cloud products, they have to do so with a basic understanding in mind, that the technology is no more the business of the consumer than a car is an end in and of itself for most people.
All of these factors lead me to agree with a number of experts in the field who believe VARs will soon become CSBs, Cloud Service Brokerages—integrating cloud computing services together to fit the needs of a particular business and helping that business get what they want, to move from point A to point B, just the thing I want to get from my truck.