David and Goliath

“A champion named Goliath came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels. On his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.”
– 1 Samuel 17 Verse 4

We all know what happens next. The Philistine champion, weighed down with his traditional armor, was defeated by a smaller, faster, nimble warrior, with God on his side. Recently, I have had enlightening conversations with some potential Davids and a few Goliaths.

Goliath: I will never go to the cloud.

Me: Why? Don’t you have an interest in being faster and more nimble than your competitors?

Goliath: I don’t see the ROI in moving.

Me: But, with the cloud, you only pay for the stones you use.

Goliath: Yes, but I have all this heavy hardware weighing me down, and an army of IT experts that has been trained on our way of doing things for the past 10 years.

Me: But isn’t that the problem?

Goliath: Maybe, but I retire in less than 10 years, and I can’t afford to take any chances.

Me: Yes, but an army of rock-slinging competitors is approaching quickly. Your company may not be around in 10 years.

Of course, this wasn’t an actual conversation, but rather a real example of a traditional mindset. We as business leaders must totally change our way of thinking or else we will be slain. Traditionally, technology decisions were based on ROI, “Speeds and Feeds,” Productivity, Power and Cooling, Reliability, etc. Along came “the cloud,” and IT Managers started trying to compare legacy systems to cloud systems in legacy terms. They often found some advantages to the cloud, but they have struggled to see the entire picture.

Simply put, managers are comparing the wrong things. The cloud has brought with it entirely new ways of doing business. Moving to the cloud can certainly be compared to having legacy systems in cost terms, but this comparison completely ignores the main advantages of cloud computing. Today, companies are spinning up IT environments in a matter of hours, testing or implementing new ideas with little risk or capital, and challenging entrenched companies with new technologies developed and launched within months.

In fact, considering some of the most successful new companies in the last few years, nearly all of them have leveraged the awesome advantages of cloud computing. Netflix, Spotify, and Dropbox are three obvious examples of companies that would not even exist without cloud computing. All three have turned their respective industries nearly upside down, slaughtering their respective Goliaths in the process.

In my work with some Goliaths, they have bragged about their great IT systems. “Reliable, Best of Breed, never goes down, and efficient.” All of these traits are great – for a light bulb. However, with the cloud, you can get all this and more. You get a tool for business transformation that enables you to change your strategy and to launch new markets or services within days. As business leaders, you get to remove the IT roadblock and become nimble again. As IT leaders, you get to be relevant again – adding real value to the organization. You are no longer the guy that keeps the lights on.

Good luck in your move to the cloud!

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