Use the connected economy to be local and loved

The technologies available to business today offers an opportunity to deliver personalised, specialist and local services and yet remain a major player globally.

At a recent gathering of technology leaders, the discussion inevitably headed into the cloud. Amongst a diverse set of views I was sad to hear a chorus of voices who worked for organisations that viewed the cloud solely as a way to reduce cost. It was like I was taken back to 2007 and the debate back then that outsourcing would drastically cut business technology costs.

As we move into 2020s there continue to be organisations that believe the primary reason for using cloud is a straightforward shift from capex to opex. Organisations holding on to this view are ignoring recent history and therefore blind to the opportunities in front of them. 

Outsourcing's annals of history are jam packed with tales of failure because businesses threw their existing problems over the fence to the provider expecting both a reduction in costs and a miraculous solution to dogged issues - it was never thus. 

It is true that cloud can deliver a reduction in cost, but I increasingly hear from organisations that the cost saving was not as high as perhaps promised.

The real opportunity with cloud is to re-imagine how an organisation operates. This isn't just about using cloud as a vehicle to make major cuts and see a cost saving indirectly. Cloud is an opportunity to reassess the services an organisation offers and use the technology to deliver services a customer truly needs. As we have heard time and time again at conferences, the poster children of disruption completely revised existing services, but were a poor customer experience. Previously you could have found a spare room in a small advertisement for a short stay, but it was a long and often dodgy experience, a cloud enabled tool suddenly made spare rooms a better option for business travel than a chain hotel with no authenticity. Using a cab in capital cities like London was a miserable experience and very poor value prior to services from Addison Lee through to Uber arriving at the kerb.

Listening to the business leaders at this debate caused me concern because their organisations had not looked at technology and imagined how they could deliver the most valuable service they offer in the best way to the customer. Disruption is not only changing business models but causing some major - and sometimes uncomfortable societal change - and in the process some quality services are being lost. As our retail, travel, leisure, media and financial services landscape changes there is a concerning level of imagination failure. 

The technologies available to these sectors allow them to deliver the most valuable and expert services in a far more meaningful, personalised and possibly most importantly local way than at any time in the last 30 years. Cloud is not a spring chicken anymore. Yet up and down the land - in any developed nation - local services are being eroded. Citizens with complex financial services needs, businesses requiring advice or customers unsure of whether a product really fits are increasingly directed to poor quality centralised services that are bland and lack understanding. Some digital products have, thankfully, improved things, but access to expertise is frustratingly difficult.

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