By Allan Behrens, Managing Director of Taxal
I like to look at IT topics in the context of the industry you’re in. And that goes double for Cloud.
Let me explain… If I’m an automotive manufacturer, new technologies (and importantly those for this discussion in the Cloud product and services business) must add value to my business directly; notably to developing, selling and servicing better cars, trucks etc. If I don’t understand the linkage between what the IT providers offer and what I do, is it a surprise that I chose to stay with what I know and trust?
If I don’t understand the linkage between what the IT providers offer and what I do, is it a surprise that I chose to stay with what I know and trust?
I believe that one of the reasons for (arguably) slower take up of Cloud in general within the manufacturing sector is to a large degree due to the gaps between what user companies need, what they understand to be available, and the value that the new paradigm brings to support and enhance their business initiatives. These gaps are unfortunately (and embarrassingly) exacerbated by the significant amount of techno-babble (and acronym hell) that’s an age-old promotional ethos of us in the IT industry. Of course this gap in presentation and understanding/acceptance isn’t unique to manufacturing, it applies across many industries. Needless to say there are many other reasons that affect the take-up of Cloud (or any new paradigm for that matter), among these are the past stigmas of over-selling, drawn out implementations and lock-ins attributed to some of those in our IT communities.
To my point on the experiential gap between IT suppliers and their customers. It would be naive to simply pin the reasons for the absorption of new technology in one vertical over another as being one of semantics or misunderstandings. The availability of suitable Cloud enabled software (and security and hardware/software infrastructure) plays a fundamental role.
The challenge is what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Should software providers be developing (and migrating) their offerings for (and to) the Cloud in advance of client demand? In reality the availability of Cloud software for manufacturing companies is somewhat mixed. There are, of course, many, what many would call ‘horizontal’ applications available that are non-manufacturing specific, CRM (e.g. Salesforce) being one example. Naturally, some developers are waiting to see what demand there is before committing to Cloud, but we’re seeing some interesting service providers deliver Cloud delivery platforms that allow users to take advantage of non-Cloud based apps; for example Rescale in the engineering simulation domain.
Of course there are long-serving application developers moving/developing product and services on the Cloud; Oracle, SAP, Dassault Systèmes and Siemens PLM amongst them. With their large suites of software it’s no surprise that it’s taking time to “Cloud-enable” their portfolios, but I tend to feel that many of them are still in the ‘wait and see’ category. There are, of course, developers who have whole-heartedly nailed their flag to the post. I’d include in the latter group suppliers such as IBM active in a number of areas including those of analytics and software engineering, engineering solutions supplier Autodesk with new Cloud based design simulation and manufacturing services, and ERP solutions from Netsuite. Of course the promise of elastic and on-demand resource also provides an attractive option for many software start-ups, and we’re also seeing innovative solutions emerging in many areas including those of design, engineering, collaboration and supply chain management.
Rounding off then, Cloud adoption in industries such as manufacturing requires both technology and commercial catalysts. Of course enabling infrastructures and applications need to be available, and these are rapidly evolving/works in progress. But Cloud acceptance can be further improved; for one thing, IT suppliers may want to consider a change their sales and marketing strategies; one that better promotes Cloud software and infrastructure focused on client (industry specific) business outcomes; business value-add rather than ‘technology for technologies sake’. As for potential user companies, perhaps it’s time for them to consider new the opportunities and advantages that Cloud can bring to their businesses; not only from financial or technological standpoints, but also in its ability, especially for small and medium sized business, to allow them to ‘punch above their weight’.