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The Cloud Trap: Strategies to Avoid Lock-In

Attend any major tech conference and it’s a good bet that someone will be on stage talking about the accelerating rate of change in technology. It’ll most likely be the keynote speaker—listing several examples to help the audience grasp the power of exponential change that we are experiencing today and will continue to experience moving forward. This isn’t a knock against industry evangelists for continuing to harp on this very important point. As highlighted in a recent webinar, this idea is worth continuing to share. It’s important because leaders still don’t seem to grasp that the future is happening in almost real time. Every industry will be disrupted and what worked for organizations yesterday or today, won’t work at a point in the near future. AI, cloud, frictionless customer experiences, big data, blockchain, IoT, 5G, and soon quantum computing will give way to immense disruption.

The Trap

A significant body of work has been written around strategies for keeping up with the accelerating rate of change and innovation, but cloud is usually one of the top contenders. Industry leaders and customers have touted reduced time to value, faster adoption of software, resources on demand, greater agility, ecosystem/pricing that facilitates better innovation, reduced costs, and the list goes on and on. I’m not saying these statements aren’t valid—in fact, quite the opposite. However, if industry leaders expect change, why are the industry trends pointing toward corporate cloud lock-in potentially worse than the mainframe days?

As several industry analysts have pointed out recently, there is a shift toward SaaS and public cloud. With many of the largest cloud providers only offering true cloud options for deployment. This makes sense from a macro level—SaaS/public cloud typically provide the shortest time to value for cloud offerings to aid in keeping up with accelerating rate of change. Also, according to industry analysts, exiting the cloud is the least important factor in cloud buying decisions. But, should this be a higher priority? Are leaders falling into the trap of believing there are only two choices, speed or long-term agility?

At its peak, Blackberry owned over 50 percent of the U.S. market and 20 percent of the global smartphone market, now they own less than 1 percent. About 50 percent of the S&P will be replaced over the next 10 years if Innosight’s forecast churn rate holds according to a new study. Even Unicorns like Uber, WeWork, and others that just last year many thought would continue meteoric rises, are now showing cracks in their financial models. And some of the most innovative companies in the world (Apple, Google, facebook, etc) that live in the future, are starting to show their fears of movements like web 3.0 (i.e. distributed internet) with their recent marketing campaigns around privacy. Today’s leaders will quickly become tomorrow’s laggards. We’ve seen examples of this in the past, and it will only happen at a startlingly faster rate moving forward.

Find Your Way Out

There are other trends though, that point to savvy IT leaders understanding that there aren’t just two options. For example, the rise of docker containerization that allow organizations to internalize deployment dependencies and port their application more fluidly across clouds. And, organizations continuing to choose vendors that provide deployment choices with the same code base allowing companies to move more seamlessly across deployment options. Portability is important because it can provide agility and leverage in negotiating with cloud providers in the future. We are also seeing companies looking for platform capabilities to solve problems of today and tomorrow with mature cloud offerings that have functionality that grows with their business.

At Kofax, we expect change and provide deployment with choice. Organizations can choose from a wide variety of deployment options like on-premise for managing their own implementation, private cloud with modern containerization tools like Docker and Kubernetes, true PaaS/SaaS offerings, and business process outsourcing through our wide partner network when they need more personalized services. We encourage organizations to keep a holistic, long-term, enterprise strategy in mind, too. Look for pitfalls from past technology paradigm shifts and seek technology partnerships with vendors that expect change and provide both speed and flexibility.

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