Typically they look at enterprise-wide initiatives and ask an IT executive where the company is in the cloud adoption process. Usually when you ask the person at the top, he or she is only aware of the enterprise-wide projects, and these may not be very ambitious or very far along, so the numbers look low and the perception is that enterprise cloud computing adoption is low.
Yet cloud infrastructure service provides such as Amazon, Verizon and Rackspace seem to be doing very well, as do cloud software and platform providers such as Salesforce.com.
So customers are clearly buying these services, but they might not be going through IT to do it — and that’s why the surveys aren’t really getting at the true level of adoption.
It’s harder to measure when it comes from the bottom up, then when it comes from the top down. I watched a presentation by Box.net CEO Aaron Levie last year at the Web 2.0 Expo where he explained that by offering a product for free using the freemium model, it allowed his company to get inside organizations it would have been otherwise more difficult to penetrate.
This trojan horse model isn’t unusual in cloud computing. When users find a compelling product, they are going to use it and then go to IT later when it’s time to buy the premium version. It’s a strategy that worked for Box.net, Yammer and many other cloud vendors.
As I wrote in this space in the post, IT-Cloud Disconnect Remains, this is really not unusual and one blogger found that when asking about cloud spending in a company, the answer he got depended greatly on whom he asked.
And let’s face it, if you were to ask the average person if they use cloud services, assuming they understood the concept, I’m guessing most people with an Internet connection would have to answer an emphatic yes. Most people at a minimum get email through a web service like Gmail, use a file or photo sharing service like Dropbox or Flickr or a music service like Pandora or Spotify.
The cloud for personal use has become a given, and people who use these services at home are coming into work and using them too because they are easy to use and there is a low barrier to entry. If you don’t have your company locked down — which in my view is completely counter-productive — then chances are these same folks are accessing the services they like to use at home while at work.
So what we end up with is a shadow IT, where users take advantage of ease of use outside of IT oversight. If IT doesn’t know who’s using cloud services, asking IT management about cloud adoption is not going to yield an accurate measure of cloud usage. And that’s the issue I have with most cloud surveys. ]]>
The Cloudability blog looked at a recent study by 37 Signals, the Base Camp folks, which found they had pretty decent traction inside big Fortune-level enterprise organizations including 37 of the Fortune 50, 68 of the Fortune 100 and 321 of the Fortune 500 — decent traction by any measure.
But where it gets more interesting is when the post author met up with an IT executive at a party and asked him about his IT cloud spend, he was told almost nothing. Interestingly enough, he writes he met up with a developer at the same company and asked the same question. The developer said, $5000.
This is a telling tale for a number of reasons. First of all, it illustrates that business users are probably using cloud services with or without the knowledge of the IT department and why wouldn’t they. These services are inexpensive and easily accessible and they don’t require IT intervention and all the bureaucratic implications inherent in dealing with a defined department.
Now, I don’t want this post to become an anti-IT rant because that’s really not what this about. Instead, it’s understanding how cloud computing has changed the way business users in some organizations (and from the 37 Signals poll results; quite a few of the top ones) have taken control of applications and service purchases because the cloud just makes it so easy to do that.
This is not a new theme. In fact, I was hearing this two years ago at the MIT CIO Conference panels where some CIOs insisted that their users weren’t using cloud applications and the cloud company executives on the same panel were saying, “Yes they are; you just don’t know about it because it doesn’t flow through you.”
Some may see this democratization or consumerization of IT services as chaotic, but if you can offload some of the more mundane IT tasks in this fashion argues Forresters Matthew Brown in a recent blog post, it makes sense and lets IT concentrate on more important organizational tasks. Brown writes, “I for one would much prefer to see IT people working on stuff that adds net new value to the business.”
Hard to argue with that logic. For too long IT has had to worry about keeping the lights on instead of really taking a hard look at how technology can help the organization achieve its strategic business goals. If cloud computing in its various forms can free up IT to do more important work, that seems like a reasonable trade-off from a business perspective.
For now, it’s certainly telling that even now as we approach the end of 2011 and cloud computing begins to gain some maturity (or at least enters adolescence maybe?) that IT executives appear to be just as clueless about cloud usage in their organizations as they were two years ago when cloud computing was less well known in IT circles. ]]>