My daughter is into rock climbing. So I spend my Saturday mornings watching her scramble up terrifyingly acute slopes with the sound of carabiners snapping to attention as she ascends ever greater heights.

In climbing, there is the concept of the “lead” who determines the optimal route, tests the footholds, inserts the clippy-things (I’m no expert), takes most of the risk, and guides the team behind her. “Reach a little over to your left, there’s a good hold just above you.” They carry their own rope, and have much further to fall than everyone else.

Leading is hard, enervating, can be dangerous and only the most experienced can do it. It’s a similar role as that played by the Everest climbers Hillary and Tenzing, but played out every Saturday morning on English granite.

In any Cloud Platform, going first is also hard and risky. The first sellers on eBay were not sure that there would ever be enough buyers to drive prices up in their auctions. The first purchases of expensive telex machines had to persuade their trading partners to buy one, and to some extent, train them on its use.

The good news is that in the latest Cloud Platforms the leaders have already ascended, leaving the well-marked routes for us all. They have all

  • Battled with technology
  • Experimented with different business models and found which ones work
  • Got legislation changed (for example EU legislation regarding electronic signatures)
  • Developed training, information packs and tools for their trading partners

The risks have largely been eliminated and the result is a clear, well-marked, safe route to the top.

The danger is you’ll be left on the ground staring upwards while everyone else is “following the leader” and are even now swarming up the rock face. The Leader on your route could be any of the following:

  • A key supplier who wants to send an updated catalogues of their latest products
  • A large customer who insists you must invoice them electronically
  • A logistics partner who wants you to include their tracking page with your shipment information
  • One of your sales channels that wants to set up a web storefront for your products

Time to Clip-in

As they say in the climbing world, it’s time to “Clip-in” and take the first step up the slope. The view from the summit is incredible.

Companies are using cloud platforms to address a variety of customer needs through mobile deployments. Among the most prominent: real-time customer service, cited by 67% of the respondents; faster response times (59%); better customer retention (47%); increased brand loyalty (43%); and higher revenues (33%). Asia and Latin America lead on real-time customer service, EMEA on faster response times and customer service; North America is the only region not to lead at least one category. (Chart and data from our report on PaaS and mobiilty, Unleashing the Cloud, which you can download free here ).

Customer needs are at the focus of mobile strategy, especially for large companies. Other key areas of concern include boosting internal productivity, enabling collaboration, and unleashing faster time to value for the business (click chart to enlarge; chart and data from our report on PaaS and mobiilty, Unleashing the Cloud, which you can download free here ).

About 6 weeks ago I was invited to attend the Bay -Area Churchill Club meeting featuring the CEOs of Jive and Box talking with Andreesen Horowitz and Bloomberg Businessweek .  The conversation between all 4 speakers was good, covering a number of trends and involving the 100 or so people on the audience.  Inevitably, the conversation turned to the “triple point” of mobile, social and big data impacting nearly every business, labeled “the future of work” by the Churchill team.

Reinforcing comments from this Churchill group is the metrics-based Oxford Economics study, Unleashing the Cloud .  All of our smartphones, tablets and PC are increasingly connecting 24×7 to mobile cloud platforms that support a variety of business needs, with some variation in the rate of adoption in different regions. For example, Oxford notes that 61% of survey respondents indicate that they use cloud platforms to rapidly deploy new services and capabilities – and many of those likely are remote apps to increase workplace productivity.

Let’s go back to the Churchill Club, which from its inception 28 years ago has a track record of trend-spotting and putting their fingers on the pulse of tech Industry. There was no disagreement from anyone that Social is the new wave or beltway of business. An earlier wave, distributed computing, was an improvement but certainly didn’t deliver the office of the future.  Now, with Moore’s Law ticking along we are certainly closer to what famous news personality Walter Cronkite called the “Home of the Future” 46 years ago — where “work will come to us.”  Incredibly insightful,  and that future is real today, but is the “office of the future” cutting our average work hours?  No, last year Fortune noted we work up to 12 hours weekly beyond those worked only a few years ago.

Corporate IT has spent the last three decades building successful infrastructure for boosting worker productivity.  And now we’re collectively breaking it into four pieces – cloud, social, mobile and big data.  What’s missing is the people portion of the equation.  Churchill presenters even called this out by shouting out, “Who remembers what BCC even stands for?”  Think old technology and mimeograph in action.  Spreading newer tech over the next 5-10 years will increasingly combine what Aberdeen calls SoMoClo (social/mobile/cloud).  Want proof? Think about Amazon Web Services a mere 10 years ago vs. today and how NetFlix or even SAP’s own $1.11/month MDM product easily scales to a global workforce.  And, that global workforce is no longer the sole responsibility of the CIO.  Democratization is quickly taking hold.

How quickly is SoMoClo taking hold in the workplace?

$2 trillion USD is spent on IT according to IDC researchers and $131 billion of that is shelled out on cloud services according to Gartner.  Cloud delivers the ability to innovate and execute on business needs quickly.  Is this the beginning to a @ work, perhaps?  Certainly a new group of 3 kings or industry leaders is emerging according to the Churchill presenters.  The Economist even points out this cloud phenomenon as an important part of today’s 3 rd Industrial Revolution.  IT innovation cycles are moving even faster now thanks to SoMoClo and include a rapid embodiment of machine-to-machine (M2M) for embedded, intelligent data economy-based network – hopefully nothing like the Terminator movies of course.

Summing up our future of work, Churchill presenters and analysts agree that mobile and cloud platforms require a good deal of planning and effort. Oxford goes on to note that “organizations must develop a cohesive and focused strategy and break down silos and departmental boundaries in order to achieve maximum results.”  The future of work 28 or 46 years from now will no doubt focus on how IT and workers adopt efficient workflows and ensure that cooperative governance and security protections exist.  Both Churchill and Cronkite may be on to a longer term trend.

From our paper on mobility and cloud platforms, Unleashing the Cloud ( click here to download, free registration required):

Enterprises are using cloud platforms to address a variety of customer needs through mobile deployments. Among the most prominent: real-time customer service, cited by 67% of the respondents; faster response times (59%); better customer retention (47%); increased brand loyalty (43%); and higher revenues (33%).

Our global survey shows companies using Platform-as-a-Service technology in a variety of ways to serve customers.

  • Well over half of respondents collaborate with partners to create new products and services (58%)
  • 57% collaborate with partners to build and host applications for customer service
  • 54% collaborate with partners to build and host applications for business collaboration
  • 43% use the cloud environment to extend access to or features of existing offerings
  • 38% integrate with business partners via public APIs.
  • Less than 10% do not use Platform as a Service technology to serve customers.