How Microsoft will Force you “To the Cloud” (Part 3-Where)

In this part of the series, we explore “where” Microsoft’s “World Domination via Cloud” challenges will come from. This post will be all text as I am tired of trying to find pictures. Just because a big-ass company says they are heading in a particular direction, no one is obligated to follow them there; they must be convinced first. Granted it is easier to convince someone to follow the path to the cloud with Microsoft than with Billy Bob’s Cloud Service, but that does not make it “easy”.

Along the path to guiding the world through Microsoft’s doorway into the cloud are many hurdles. So let’s unpack a few that I have seen so far that Microsoft, and it’s partners, are facing.

One big hurdle is the Partners themselves. As I discussed in a previous post, the partners were pretty happy with the status quo, then Microsoft comes along and busts their bubble. I have sat in on many Microsoft webinars for partners and heard first-hand their efforts to turn those frowns upside down. They go something like this: “Don’t worry about the lost revenue from the old ways, you can sell our cloud and wrap other recurring services around it, like managed services and customizations...” to which the partners usually reply, “we were already selling that”. If there was somewhere else to go, I think a lot of the old partners would jump ship… but there really are no other ships to jump on, everybody else is going cloud also. I think we should all be prepared for an influx of unemployed hardware and server technicians very soon. The industry WILL transition, the catch-22 for a large partner is: do I make the jump now, take the huge hit to my revenue and start rebuilding, or do I milk this as long as I can and risk other partners (like Forceworks) getting firmly established as cloud leaders. Oh.. what to do?

The next hurdle shares the same “resistance to the inevitable” behavior that the prior one does, and really affects all cloud providers: “I.T. Guy”. I have written in the past about our challenges with client I.T departments’ intransigence. I will briefly re-iterate a few points. With Office 365 for example, a client can take advantage of Exchange hosted by Microsoft. It works exactly like their on-premise exchange did. It works all the time. It is cheaper to operate and maintain than the on-premise solution. The on-premise Exchange server goes away and so does the Blackberry server if you have one. There is zero compromise. This one is an absolute no-brainer. So when I.T. Guy attributes any of his “value to the company” to his ability to keep the email up and running, I truly feel for him. I ask myself “does he really believe that?”. If so, he is going to get completely blind-sided soon, and will be completely dumbfounded to realize that in his company’s eyes, that chore has no value at all. If a labor intensive, high-need, high-risk aspect of a business can have all the labor and risk removed with a click of a button, and save money, how secure is the guy keeping that system up? Exchange is an easy example, but this same scenario holds true for most other systems as well. I expect to see many former I.T. Guys on the street corners soon with signs saying “I don’t even know what happened”. This will truly be a shame, because if I.T. Guy actually looked at the opportunity cloud brings for him to actually catapult his “real” value to his company, he would embrace it. Like the Partners above, he has to decide if he is going to lead his company into the future, or be replaced by some young kid who will. Every day his boss is hearing from peers about their cloud experience and eventually he will start questioning the incongruent opinion he is getting from his I.T. Guy, then his days are numbered.

Let me also add, one thing I have never heard come out of I.T. guy’s mouth is “I had a bad experience with cloud before”. The fact is that most of them have absolutely no experience with cloud to even base an opinion on. What do we as humans usually do when faced with something we don’t understand?

A waning hurdle is security. Trumpeted the loudest in the past by people who make their money selling on-premise solutions and I.T. Guy who maintains them, SECURITY can sound pretty scary. But as cloud companies have evolved and fortified security and obtained all kinds of security certifications, the “security” drumbeat has quieted. When someone brings up cloud security as an issue today, my first thought is to ask them “Did you know that the Berlin Wall is Gone?” But I resist, because I am also aware that most people are not in my business and therefore should not be expected to know the “current” state of affairs. I call it the “Plane Crash” syndrome. We all know, statistics have proven that is is umpteen times safer to travel by plane than car. But when that rare plane crash does happen a whole slew of people become afraid of flying. “I think I’ll drive instead”. As far a Microsoft’s cloud security, I could dump boxes of paperwork and certifications on you, but screw that, you would not read them anyway. I know because I once delivered a big binder to a prospect with a cover page over two inches of completely blank paper, he called the next day and said he was satisfied with Microsoft’s security. I would instead suggest that you consider the following: Microsoft is all-in on cloud, all of their current marketing dollars are going towards cloud, they are incentivizing cloud and de-incentivizing on-premise in their partner compensation plans, they have turned the entire ship towards the cloud. What would a significant security event do to their plans? I think it would stop them dead. I assume Microsoft knows this as well. Right now, there is no other company that I can think of that has more to gain from the cloud and more to lose from a security failure than Microsoft. Do you think that the biggest software company in the world has covered that base? Nuf said.

While the security hurdle may be waning, the Migration hurdle is an unchecked tumor. Even if you can see a beautiful world of butterflies for you over in the cloud, you still may have to walk through fire to get there. Microsoft would like you to believe that it’s just a hop, skip and a jump on over there, but they are either in denial or flat-out intentionally glossing over this issue. Migrations are just plain un-fun. Sometimes the cost of migration may not be recovered through the savings for years. When you hear about cases where companies have reduced their I.T. budgets by half by going cloud, I think they often leave out the non-recurring expense of getting there. I don’t want to scare you off of cloud, but I don’t want to blow smoke up your ass either. Millions will be made by firms like ours in migration fees over the next many years. Each migration project is completely different. Migrating a 1,000 person company can actually cost less than migrating a 20 person company depending on where you are starting. How many different operating systems are in place, how current are they, how are they storing files, are they migrating from an on-premise solution or another “quasi-cloud” solution hosted by Billy Bob’s Data-Center and Bowling Alley. The factors are too numerous to cover here, but suffice it to say, look before you leap.

Will you face some, or all, of these hurdles? Yes. Will you go to the cloud anyway? Eventually..yes. You will have no choice, because you are not racing towards a cliff, you are running away from one.

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