Four years ago I did something once considered impossible. Teaming up with a group of colleagues, we launched a company out of nothing. Not entirely nothing: each of us brought a wealth of skills, experience and ambition to the new venture. But we had little else. It was, relatively speaking, as simple as registering a domain and getting Salesforce onboard. The harder part was finding the customers, as it should be.
Agilitude wasn’t founded on a whim and a prayer. We knew what we were doing. The only difference was that we didn’t have to do it as before. We didn’t need to invest heavily in infrastructure, applications and other technologies that translate into business services. Using a BYOD policy, we didn’t even have the overhead of user devices. Even today our most advanced piece of company infrastructure is a network switch. For everything else we just pay as we need it.
When I’m told that 2017 will be the year of Cloud in South Africa, I disagree. That was last year. If you are still thinking whether Cloud is for your company, you are already late to the party. Not too late, but you may have trouble finding parking.
This is not only true for small companies who pay to use someone else’s infrastructure. Large enterprises have also been making the switch. Five years ago, the banks my colleagues dealt with would not even broach the topic. Moving any of their IT operations onto cloud services was never going to happen. But today those same banks have migrated tens of thousands of users onto cloud email services such as Office365 and are feverishly building hybrid cloud platforms.
Attitudes have changed. Fewer South African professionals are mulling the ‘if’ of Cloud, asking about security and data costs. Those conversations have moved on, to what more Cloud has to offer.
Everyone wants a vantage of the new business technology world. When I first became involved with the executive level, more time would be spent discussing office party budgets than the multi-million rand technology project. The latter was IT’s problem. Today that no longer happens. Just as every executive doesn’t ignore the financials of their company, IT investment is a front-of-mind topic.
This mindset shift isn’t due to some lack of trust towards technical departments. The value of technology for business has found common ground with an understanding of the operational benefits Cloud offers. Professionals grasp the value contributed to their own vision. This has long been a promise of Cloud, now coming to fruition in the business world.
That same promise has driven a mythology of IT being orphaned, reduced in influence and destined to be outsourced. IT is often cast as the real enemy of Cloud. Yet the experience seen through Agilitude’s customers is entirely different. I have never before encountered so many CIOs who are also deeply vested in the business’ interests. IT departments are realising the value they couldn’t before due to the pressures of keeping the lights on. They can lift their heads and see what the business needs. So can the budgets, previously devoured by legacy investments. When everything comes together, Cloud is an epic win.
This new level of interaction between a company’s business and technology groups is the real shift. Even companies with the internal resources to build their own systems are nonetheless looking at hybrid cloud models to define their strategy. The most favoured approach currently is to move less critical business systems to online services first. Salesforce CRM and Office365 emails are leading that.
The Cloud has proven that it reduces complexity, improves safety, reigns in budgets and salves the pain of asset sweating. You do still need a strategy, or risk a complicated mess later. But in my mind, South Africa has graduated and become a cloud market. You shouldn’t ignore it. To quote Willem van Biljon, who gave the keynote at Agilitude’s launch: “If you are not looking to Cloud, you risk going out of business, because your competitors will be.”
But that was four years ago. Today your competitors are. Cloud is already happening in South Africa.