Cloud technology and services can deliver great benefits to small and large businesses, that is for sure.  The trick is how can your network and partners utilize the technology and services to realize these benefits.  The cloud should not be utilized simply because it is there, it should be utilized to bring real and measurable benefits to the network.  You must be careful that you are not blinded by the hype and potential promise of the cloud technology and services and define clear a clear strategy and plan for your network cloud utilization to achieve the objective values.  Cloud technologies and services are like any other new tools, no matter the hype, and you must treat the utilization like any other tool and analyze the benefits and return that will be provided.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a great deal of upside to utilizing cloud technologies and tools, I am just warning that you must evaluate these tools utilizing the a thoughtful evaluation process.  I do not think though that you should utilize the same process that you would with hardware purchases.  The reason for this is that the cloud technologies and services evaluation should weigh the cost with a lower priority and include the potential future utilization in the evaluation.  Your evaluation should be a narrow focus on a short term objective. However, your strategy should realize that your evaluation is more similar to a prototype or proof of concept than a final, one and done type, delivery.  This is probably the key benefit to utilizing cloud technologies and services, the justification is simplified and the utilization supports your continuous improvement methodology.

I see probably the single greatest benefit to utilizing cloud technologies and services to be the match up to support a continuous improvement program.  These technologies and services provide the best opportunity to experiment without a huge investment in infrastructure, it provides a pay-as-you-go model that allows you and your network to utilize new capabilities without locking into a huge investment in technology.  The key factor here is that you and your network are able to purchase the capability of a new technology without a long term commitment.  This is an important factor that mitigates the risk to investing early in technology that is continuously changing.

While cloud based individual services and technologies can never be guaranteed to survive for any length of time, the cloud framework and concepts are going to survive and extend into more and more areas of both businesses and consumers.  Cloud technologies and services are changing the manner in which both businesses and consumers deliver and utilize services and capabilities.  These capabilities and changes are in the initial stages of development and maturity.  This means that the level and types of changes will be fast and furious and due to the nature of the framework, this rate of change may not slow.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?