What's Your Customer Cloud Strategy?

Twelve Customer Requirements to Include as Your Firm Migrates to Cloud Computing

February 9, 2012

Most companies think of cloud computing as a way to save money and gain flexibility by relying on a virtual data center to provide computing resources on an as needed basis. Many companies are in the process of moving most of their applications and data to the cloud. But they often stop short of giving customers access to their data via cloud computing. We propose that you lead your cloud computing strategy with a customer cloud strategy. A “customer cloud” is the virtual project space where your customers can securely access, keep track of, and manage the assets they’ve bought from you as well as any related projects in which they’re engaged. Here are the 12 things that customers expect from your cloud strategy.


What’s a “Customer Cloud”? It’s the on demand computing infrastructure that enables your customers to securely manage their stuff and their projects from their mobile devices and/or from their computers.

Many businesses are now taking advantage of cloud computing. They no longer invest in their own data center facilities and manage their own computer servers and data storage. Instead they deploy and manage virtual computers in one or more secure private clouds. One benefit of cloud computing is the ability to grow or shrink your computing requirements on demand. The IT architects who are designing your company’s cloud strategy have probably decided to leave customer data for last, fearing that, because of its importance and sensitivity, customer data will be the last information to migrate to the cloud.

We propose an alternative point of view: Lead your cloud strategy with customer data and applications hosted in secure private clouds and accessed by secure private networks. You’ll be able to be more responsive to customers’ needs to have their own information at their fingertips from their mobile phones and tablets. You’ll be able to provide customers with a rich environment for managing and interacting with the assets they’ve purchased from you. It will be easier to keep customers’ mobile devices, your customer portals, and their intelligent products in synch.


Your Company Has a Cloud Strategy, but Not a Customer Cloud Strategy

Whether you sell to consumers and/or to business customers, the chances are good that your company’s IT infrastructure is gradually moving towards the cloud. Your firm’s cloud strategy may seem like an esoteric information technology discussion that is best left to the technology architects. But it’s not. Your company’s cloud computing strategy will directly impact your customers.

Customer Execs Need to Insist on a Customer Cloud Strategy

If you are one of the people in charge of customer information, customer experience, and/or revenues generated from customers (e.g., all revenues!), it behooves you to run around in front of your firm’s cloud computing parade and begin waving the customer flag. If you don’t take your customers’ needs into account as your technologists plan and execute your firms’ migration to private, public, and hybrid clouds, the chances are good that you’ll wind up with a “customers last” strategy—one that will keep you from being competitive.

If your IT architects ignore the need to plan your customer cloud strategy, customer-facing apps will continue to be developed and deployed by different groups within your organization. Some of these applications will run on proprietary home-grown systems; some will be deployed via the Internet; others will be downloaded on customers’ mobile devices. Your company will wind up with an unmanageable, brittle, and fragmented set of mobile apps, customer portals, and intelligent networks and systems that do not represent your brand well. Customers will not have an integrated view that lets them manage their relationships with your firm and their products. Customers won’t have confidence that their data is consistent and up-to-date.

Mobile Apps Are Exacerbating the Need for a Customer Cloud Strategy

Many companies have already deployed, or are in the process of deploying, mobile apps. Mobile apps live in the cloud. As one cloud-savvy executive explained, “We all carry the cloud around in our pockets.” Customers find and download mobile apps from the cloud: from Apple’s App Store, Google’s Android Market, or Amazon’s Appstore for Android. Yet these cloud-enabled and cloud-delivered applications typically connect to your company’s products and services. They are part of the brand experience you deliver to customers. Typically, companies’ mobile apps represent their brand better than many of their older customer-facing applications. Yet, they are often developed and deployed without the benefit of a larger strategy that governs the entire end-to-end customer experience.

Your Customers Use Cloud Services Today

We can learn a lot by watching the “customer cloud” strategies of companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. As users of these cloud providers’ services, we may be nervous about the amount of privacy we feel we’re giving up by entrusting these cloud service providers with so many details about our lives and our behaviors. But at least these firms all have a customer cloud strategy. As a user of these cloud services, you know that you are interacting via the public internet. You know that your information “lives” in these firms’ respective clouds. In other words, you don’t know or care where in the world the computers are that house your information. You just trust that you’ll have access to it when you need it. Each of these cloud players provides explicit privacy policies, and each one offer us, as customers, a lot of control over what kinds of information we want to share with whom. (We’ll compare and contrast these players’ privacy policies in a subsequent series of articles.)

All Businesses Need a Customer Cloud Strategy

Our contention is that it’s not just providers of cloud-based services to consumers who need to have an explicit strategy for ...(more)

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