Consumers Are the Backseat Drivers of Enterprise

At a meeting last week of the Seattle chapter of the IAMCP (International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners), we were joined by Josh Waldo, Senior Director of Cloud Partner Strategy in the Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft where he led an excellent session, based largely on the results of a recent IDC study, on the partner opportunities for the cloud. Its unmistakable: the enterprise is moving toward the cloud….but how quickly, and to what extent will be pure-cloud versus hybrid environments is up for debate.

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Some interesting dialog came out of the session around “trust issues” with the cloud. I mentioned my plans to host a tweetjam tomorrow on the topic of security and the cloud not because I think there are inherent weaknesses or vulnerabilities in the model, but because there is a lot of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) out there about the cloud, and most organizations (including Microsoft) have failed to successfully answer some of the basic questions people are asking. And that reluctance to move production systems into the cloud has now found its way into Microsoft’s own planning – which is a good thing. It means the company has tempered some of its earlier “all-cloud, all-the-time” messaging, making its FY14 projections, in my view, much more realistic.

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But it was something else that Josh mentioned that seemed to click for me as to why Microsoft’s shift toward the consumer was also about maintaining its lead in the enterprise: as budgets shift from capital expenditures (CAPEX purchases of hardware and infrastructure) to operational expenditures (online services, end user utilities) the purchasing power of the enterprise moves to the consumer. Hence the snappy blog title, where consumers become the back-seat drivers of enterprise collaboration decisions.

And now you understand why so much emphasis is being put into the app model, into consumer-driven capabilities rather than centralized IT platforms. Microsoft recognizes where the power shift is going, and so they are shifting accordingly. From the perspective of most end users, the traditional IT model, with its process and governance and bureaucracy (real or perceived), is at the center of every productivity issue. The inherent problem here, of course, is that your average end user does not think in terms of compliance, auditing and reporting requirements. 

<segue into my next point> Stepping back and looking at the last decade of technology, the shift from enterprise to consumer is quite amazing. People want instant information, on whatever device they bring from home, with the tools and features they have adopted within their personal lives. IT should just work, and when it doesn’t, the IT organization is viewed as the culprit. According to a newly released uSamp survey of 500 mobile business users (commissioned by harmon.ie) four in ten mobile business users ignore IT restrictions put in place by their slow-moving, old-school IT departments to try out file sharing services such as Dropbox. The power of DropBox is in its simplicity, and the fact that it works just as well on Android and Apple phones as it does on tablets, PCs and Macs.

So what’s the issue? Costly data leaks for one, millions wasted on redundant licensing, for another.

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Security and the cloud is an interesting topic – one that inspires passionate responses from frustrated end users who just want to get their work done with the tools they are comfortable with, and concerned IT organizations that see their ability to mitigate risks diminishing as capabilities move into the cloud. If you have an opinion on the topic, I encourage you to join our tweetjam tomorrow, September 25th at 8am Pacific / 11am Eastern by following along on Twitter using the #CollabTalk hash tag, or by using our Twubs.com/CollabTalk platform.

And if your IT users have “gone rogue,” or you know of someone who has, and unintended damages have resulted, the folks over at Harmon.ie are conducting a contest where you can win a Galaxy S4. Submit your best (worst) IT horror stories for the chance to win.  Submissions will be anonymous to protect the innocent.  http://www.harmoniecontests.com/

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.