Don't Yell "Cloud" in a Crowded Market

I was at MIT the other day listening to the CEO of a small technology company discussing his company's security product when a member of the audience asked him about "cloud governance" and I saw the CEO's head explode.

No, it didn't actually explode, but it was a near thing. His eyes rolled up; his cheeks flushed; he exhaled slowly, paused, and finally said, "Yeah, it's good for that too."

Well, what else could he say? Could he say what he was clearly thinking? That the term "cloud" has been used to describe so many things both new and (in techno time) ancient that today it barely means anything at all?

Could he say that the term was popularized by an unholy alliance of analysts that always need something new to talk about (and sell) and technology editors who always need something new to write about (and sell)?

Not without risking alienating those analysts and editors, he couldn't.

Could he say that around the turn of the century there were businesses called application service providers (ASPs) that offered to host your business apps on their servers (or maintain them on yours), providing those applications "on demand," as if IT was a "utility" and you paid for what you used instead of building and maintaining and above all paying for an IT department that was a cost, not a profit center?

No, he couldn't say that because so many ASPs failed and many of the businesses that trusted them failed along with them, giving the name ASP a bad odor that persists to this day.

Could he say that the cloud (a term that contains its vagueness in its very name) is a form of infrastructure provision and still requires that a business trust a third party with the applications that power its oh-so-precious business processes? 

No, the CEO couldn't say any of those things (although I'm sure he was thinking them) because the hype machine has so thoroughly blanketed the business world with the term "cloud" that protesting its use (or uselessness) marks one as a pariah or someone who just . . . doesn't . . . get it.

On the other hand, if you Google "cloud," or any varient thereof, you can scroll through page after page until your head explodes.

So, the question becomes why, as someone attempting to demonstrate thought leadership, as someone commissioning a White Paper, why would you want to mix in with that roiling crowd. In other words, Why scream "Cloud!" in such a crowded market?

No one will hear you.

If, on the other hand, you have some new take on, say, how to run an operation when a business has outsourced its apps and/or infrastructure (i.e., it's in the cloud), or how to make sure an operation runs smoothly, cost-effectively, and is secure (i.e., cloud governance), why not try to avoid using the term "cloud"? Declining to add your voice to the flock crowing "Cloud! Cloud! Cloud!" might help you stand out. It might actually help differentiate what you have to say from all those other voices.

And isn't that the aim of thought leadership marketing?

Think about it.


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