Is Cloud Disruptive?

Brightsolid recently released the results of our 2019 State of the Nation survey. In this first of a series of 5 blogs our product manager, Vicky Glynn looks at some of the key results and what they may mean for organisations.

Often in the tech world ‘new’ is the nirvana and we love to use terms such as ‘unprecedented’ and ‘game-changing’; it’s appealing for companies like Brightsolid to talk about cloud in context of digital disruption or transformation.

Depending on whether you consider cloud as ‘someone else’s compute’ or whether you are a Hyperscale purist, cloud is either entering its fourth or second decade and as Brightsolid’s recent ‘State of the Cloud’ survey showed almost 3/4s (71%) of the Scottish businesses we surveyed have already adopted cloud computing. So, is disruptive and transformative the right description of cloud?

Undoubtably, the hyperscale giants, brought unprecedented (there’s that word!) speed and scale to cloud, allowing options for solutions that simply would not have existed. Cloud certainly has felt disruptive across the whole of society; many of the things we all have in our lives simply would not exist without cloud – Netflix, Spotify, Skype, PayPal to name a few. We are continually advised that our work world is about to be completely different because of cloud technologies – not only because traditional hierarchies no longer seem to make sense for how we work today but because applications for real life AI, Machine Learning and robotics seem much more tangible.

But the reality might be a little less revolutionary, according to a 2018 Eurostat survey, the main usage of cloud in European organisations is for hosting email systems, storing files hosting data bases or services relating to office software, financial and accounting software applications or customer relationship management. So, for most organisations, it’s allowing them to continue doing many of the things they have always done, albeit often faster, smarter, and cheaper.

Clayton Christensen, author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma’ posits two types of innovation: sustaining and disruptive. Sustaining innovation is that which extends existing technologies, improving them incrementally whereas “Disruption” is about conceiving a radically new business model, which involves radically different processes, business strategies and new customers. So, is cloud disruptive? If we are using cloud mainly for email, storage and data bases, perhaps not, perhaps its more about sustained innovation.

That’s no bad thing, Gary P. Pisano, in his book ‘Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained innovation’ suggests that the fundamental reality is that bigger companies are, well, different. Demanding that they “be like Uber” is no more realistic than commanding your dog to speak French. Bigger companies are complex. They need to sustain revenue streams from existing businesses, and deal with investor or shareholder demands.

So, while it may not feel as life changing when the journey to cloud consists of talking about how to save money on supporting email, or which CRM solution suits, it might just be the type of innovation that sticks for most organisations.