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Cloud Computing – Will History Repeat Itself or Will We Learn?

I was reading a blog from Forbes last week called “Will Big Data Flop Like CRM?”.  The premise of the article is that collecting more data than ever before may simply let enterprises “screw-up in more detail.”  It goes on to postulate that CRM has failed to deliver on it’s promise.   It had me thinking, and commenting, since it gets to the heart of the fundamental issue enterprises are facing today – namely trying to drive value from a vastly complex world driven by an application centric era in which the very essence of the customer has been lost.  Indeed, enterprises today have lost the ability to uncover the true value of data and interestingly we are in danger of repeating history again with the explosion of cloud applications that are hitting enterprises.  So bear with me – this blog post is less to do with Big Data, but tries to answer the question “As CRM and other applications move to the cloud are we simply going to see history repeat itself?”

The cloud is being treated as the messiah or savior of all things computational.  You can see it everywhere – “run 100% of business in the cloud” say Forbes, the “cloud tipping point is at hand” says the Wall Street Journal.

So what is the issue?

Well, it’s quite simple really – it’s called fragmentation! Over the last 40 years we have focused on optimizing business process by building applications.  However, as the number of these have grown, so we have found it extremely complex to connect them together and deliver value.  Social computing has arrived and caused enterprises to realize that they can no longer treat customers as anonymous account numbers.  This has grown the need for data-centric solutions such as Master Data Management (MDM) – designed to pull together the understanding of a customer across applications.

So is the cloud any different?

Well, the cloud is certainly enticing – apparently it’s cheap, we can run it through Opex rather than CapEx.  We can simply tap into [insert your favorite cloud supplier here] and we’re off.  Golly gosh – how easy it is!  Now we can run support services for our clients in the cloud, we can run CRM in the cloud, we can run finance in the cloud, we can run marketing in the cloud, we can run … “anything” in the cloud.

Here we go again!

But, wait a minute … what about the data?  Hmm … “Houston we have a problem”.  Well actually … “Houston we are going to have a problem” .  It does not take a data scientist to realize that we are fragmenting our data across multiple clouds that mimic exactly the data issues we have had all along in the on-premise enterprise world we have lived in – namely our customer data is fragmented across different applications – and now they are not even run in the same place by the same supplier.  Indeed we are already seeing large enterprises having this exact problem with some of the better known cloud application providers as they realize that multiple different business units across their enterprise are using what appears to be the same cloud supplier – but with different instances for different departments.

The realization is dawning that this is no different than having different applications running on different machines!  The data is still fragmented and history repeats itself!  Again, we are now dependent upon vendors working with their nemesis competitors.  Wait … isn’t that one of the things we are meant to be getting away from? Remember how this works in on-premise land?  SAP are not really close friends with Oracle – and now we are looking at all the cloud suppliers working closely with each other as they battle for dominance over managing your business process and your data.

So what’s the answer?

I believe the answer relates to how you focus on your data – how you integrate these cloud application competitors and maximize the return on your cloud silo’d data assets.  Rather than driving headstrong into the next massive wave of data fragmentation it is critical (yes, absolutely CRITICAL) that you wake-up and realize that the cloud is not the savior from all things evil with enterprise computing.  It is time to put in-place a data centric architecture that allows you to choose the cloud applications that your business wants, but within the framework of driving the value of data.  This means ensuring a framework for delivering an authoritative single view of your customers across all cloud applications together with ensuring trustworthy data.  This is the role of modern IT within businesses and involves the use of solutions like social MDM and vendor-neutral cloud data integration that is not “locked” into any emerging cloud vendor.

One thing we have learnt in the last 40 years: Application-centric computing drives data fragmentation.  Enticing as it may seem, a cloud application is no different – it needs process and strategy.  It needs control.  On it’s own it is easy, but start combining more and more together and you are going to have IT hairball number 2 – in the cloud!  Hand-coding integration is simply delivering more disposable data integration.

Remember – data is the lifeblood of your company!

Make sure that you are approaching the cloud using these learnings.  Look for a partner who can guide you in ensuring your data is managed effectively and one who can integrate all your cloud applications to maximize the value of your cloud data in order to drive your top business imperatives.

We at Informatica would like to be that trusted partner to advise you on how to integrate the clouds and manage your hybrid IT world.

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One Response to Cloud Computing – Will History Repeat Itself or Will We Learn?

  1. Ivan Chong says:

    Chris

    Some epic thoughts here. Totally agree with you – part of the classic app-centric mindset is that a complete application stack will provide the proper scope of control to tame enterprise data. However, rather than taming the data, additional application modules and/or instances create far more fragmentation due to semantic issues and metadata inconsistency. In addition, more enlightened organizations are viewing the scope of their enterprise data as including non-transactional data residing in spreadsheets, logs, documents and other non-ERP systems.

    Now – add to THAT, the increased adoption of cloud applications like Workday or Salesforce.com and the entire strategy of using a single application stack to tame the data comes crashing down like a house or cards. To prevent the mistakes of the past, there needs to be a dedicated investment in data, apart from the host applications.

    Ivan

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