So what will the weather be like going forward, cloudy with rain or cloudy with sunshine? The fact is that the cloud is going to change things, but to what extend and what will the results be? What is the world going to be like after the cloud, but more importantly, how are we going to get there? Today I was astounded to meet someone working in the IT industry, a decision maker that did not know what the cloud is. And this person is working at a big enterprise. That is leading me to this question, how are we going to get there, because I think that is going to determine what we are going to have after the storm.
Make no mistake, the storm is on its way, and quicker than we might expect. Salesforce.com took 9 years to get to a million users, Microsoft took 6 years to get the same amount of subscribers. When Apple brings the iCloud online, they will have an immediate 200 million users. Although this is different type of services, it is still cloud based services, and with iCloud the cloud is now going to be exposed to consumers. And this exposure will introduce the cloud concept to a lot of consumers that is at this stage still unaware of what the cloud is. This I think will help the next big cloud based business system to probably reach a million users in 3 years or less.
From a business perspective cloud computing will have a number of big advantages, cost is also the one that is used as a business case, but for me, there are other advantages that are even bigger than this:
- It works, a cloud based business system does not rely on different software packages to do different things that must still be integrated, and everything is already integrated into one solution. All the different business functions will work from one interface, reducing training time in the organisation.
- Collaboration should be automatic because all your users are using the same interface. Employees still use different interfaces for different work functions in the organisation, making collaboration more difficult as it is yet another interface to deal with. Using one interface will make collaboration easier and part of the overall business software.
- Mobile access will be one of the major driving forces for more comprehensive and integrated business systems. A salesman will be able to access the system, make sure the stock is available and place the order immediately, and before he leaves the customer, the customer will have an invoice and an estimated delivery date.
These are my utopia ideas behind the cloud however, but if we reach it, how will this influence content management?
Not really invisible documents, but the management and creation of content will be integrated seamlessly into the business system. Content management will be part of the base system, this will include structured content and unstructured content.
The same can be said for business process management, because all the systems will be integrated, the processes will be already defined and an organisation will be able to change them if need be with minimum effort. Business process management will also focus a lot more on the actual management of business processes, and won’t be used as an integration layer between different business systems.
The mobile connectivity will drive the availability of content in the organisation, users might now be happy with mobile email and calendars, but this will not always be the case. Soon a customer’s history will be available through an iPad while visiting the customer. And the invoices around all the transactions and payments around those invoices will be available to both the salesman and customer. This will also change document management and integrate it better with content management.
It should not really read “invisible documents”, more “invisible content management”. Today it is a big industry with big players, integrators, lots of projects and lots of legislation to make sure the content is managed correctly. But will this always be the case?
I think the content management systems that is already part of business applications will be save and will continue to grow with their vendors, examples here is IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and SAP. But what will happen to vendors like EMC and Filenet? I don’t know Filenet, but I do know that EMC made a subpart of Documentum available that can be used in imbedded applications. This strategy however will depend on their pricing, because as it is now, pricing is the big driver for cloud based services.
Now with my utopia ideas of what the cloud will bring to the business, how will it happen, and will it actually happen?
Sunshine or rain?
I think that if my utopia ideas of cloud computing is not realised, we will not achieve the ultimate benefit from cloud computing. Imagine the following scenario: organisation X is using SAP as its primary business software, but hosted in the SAP cloud. Due to limitations or cost however, they use Filenet in an Amazon cloud to store their content. But because they just store the content in Filenet, they still use Google Docs to create the content. MQ hosted on a local system pulls this all together. HR is also hosted with some smaller cloud company because of cost. This system is pretty much what most organisations have today, but the integration is so much more difficult. Security concerns make the retrieval of data slow and cumbersome, and various encryption methods make the management of them a nightmare. Because it is so difficult for the organisation to actually move all their data from one cloud provider to another cloud provider, they are stuck with this system. And all the cost savings they were suppose to realise is now offset by new costs in keeping it all in sync and in higher internet traffic. This would be the cloudy and rainy scenario.
The other option, my utopia idea, will realise some real big time savings for an organisation, not only in costs, but also manageability and ease of use. This will be the cloudy with sunshine option, but then, what will happen to the vendors? Are we going to see the death of a number of big vendors because sales are now focused on a few big cloud operators? Is this really what we want in the IT industry, just some key players, which will lead to less competition and less innovation.
I do hope for an actual third option, where SaaS will not be the real growth point, but BPaaS. Ok, for clarification, SaaS = Software as a Service. This means that your software is hosted in a cloud, and you are using the actual software packages. BPaaS = Business Processes as a Service, which means that the consumer is yet another step away from the software that is used, and interact with the software solely through business processes. This might be the best way to go, but will organisations be able to convert to the cloud AND convert to a new way of using software at the same time?