Cloud's Instant Gratification: A Force to Be Reckoned With

By Jacob Lamm

There is plenty written about adoption of the cloud, obstacles to adoption of the cloud, and overcoming obstacles to adoption of the cloud.  According to various accounts, cloud computing is in its infancy, or has passed adolescence; Gartner's 2012 Hype Cycle has cloud computing listed just over the hump of the "Peak of Inflated Expectations."

The reality is, at whatever pace it advances, cloud computing will not be stopped.  Why? Because the cloud fosters instant gratification - and instant gratification is a force to be reckoned with.

Today, cloud-based applications are available for purchase by anyone with a credit card and the strength to drag an icon to a shopping cart.  As a result, managers can achieve relatively instant gratification by solving problems in the cloud (read: "there's an app for that!"). 

The tendency to prefer instant versus delayed satisfaction is part of human nature.  This was illustrated in a 1972 Stanford University study conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel and dubbed "The Marshmallow Experiment."  In the experiment, children ages 4-6 were each given one marshmallow and told that they could eat the marshmallow, but if they could wait 15 minutes, they would receive a second marshmallow.  Only one third of the 600 participants were able to delay gratification long enough to receive the second marshmallow.  The experiment has since been repeated a multitude of times with similar results. (To view some amusing videos of children trying to resist temptation, go to YouTube and search on ‘Marshmallow Experiment'.)

Today, technology is also a culprit.  It feeds our quest for instant gratification by providing such swift solutions to everyday problems that anything less than immediate may seem slow and frustrating. Rightly or wrongly, research that used to require a trip to the library can be conducted with a simple search on a smartphone. Online banking obviates the need for a visit to the local branch.  And forget about stopping to ask for directions.  As technology becomes increasingly interwoven in the way we live our lives, our expectations for ever-increasing immediacy are constantly fueled.

It is therefore only logical that the availability of swift application selection and deployment fuels cloud computing adoption. 

Historically, adopting new technologies came as the result of a rigid procurement process to oversee the expenditure of costly IT. The procurement organization after all is practiced in gathering requirements from throughout the company to find vendors and products that best meet the needs of the entire organization, while leveraging economies of scale.  This includes discouraging one-off purchases if the need can be met by solutions already approved and in use by the company.

But with the increasing adoption of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), this inflexibility is disappearing. Companies now have the ability to creatively construct and provide business services as needed, while accommodating the flexibility to quickly update or replace applications when preferred alternatives become available. Point, purchase, implement: instant gratification for both the manager and, ultimately, the business.

Managers who experience the comparatively instant gratification of solving problems in the cloud will find it difficult to deal with CIOs who find it difficult to adapt. These CIOS may be slow to react because they must juggle the needs of many or may take a defensive stance against company use of "rogue" cloud solutions.  Going back to the Marshmallow Experiment, picture a CIO relaying to a manager: "you can select that application in the cloud now, or you can wait for six months for an application with customized bells and whistles." Which would you pick?

CIOs need to realize the evolution to the cloud is part of a healthy business cycle. From mainframes, to distributed systems, to personal computers, and now to the cloud - each computing wave took hold because of the demands of the business.  And with the adoption of each, business leaders increasingly took control of their IT destinies.  This is especially true in the cloud, where technology choices may be made based on web searches instead of RFPs.

Therefore, to succeed, CIOs need to embrace the potential of the cloud and prove they are invaluable partners to business leaders looking to the cloud for their solutions. CIOs must become influencers whose expertise is sought after by the businesses who are otherwise only a click away from making independent technology decisions that may or may not be optimal for the enterprise. 

CIOs should view cloud adoption as an opportunity to increase the value they bring to the organization. They will need to elevate their role from managers of static infrastructures to internal brokers and customizers of cloud services.  They need to change from gatekeepers into trusted advisors, all the while ensuring that company resources are protected during the quest for instant gratification.

You can follow me on Twitter @jacoblamm.


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Jacob Lamm (@jacoblamm) is executive vice president of Strategy and Corporate Development at CA Technologies. In this role, he is responsible for coordinating the company’s overall business strategy, as well as developing strategy for the selection, prioritization, and execution of acquisitions. In addition, Jacob leads CA Technologies’ Business Incubation business units, which are charged with exploring opportunities to build businesses in new markets. He is also a member of the company's Executive Leadership Team, which defines and executes business and technical strategies.

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