Running at the speed of cloud

I ran track (barely JV) in high school. Daily practice started with a two-mile “warm up” through the cross country trail, with the pace being set by one of our distance runners.  Needless to say, his pace was very different from my pace and before long I was like Bill Murray in Stripes, bringing up the rear.

According to a recent study led by the IBM Center of Applied Insights, “pacesetters” are separating themselves from the pack in gaining benefit from cloud computing.  Specifically, pacesetters are leveraging cloud for real business transformation—not just IT transformation. Some of the findings are quite revealing.

(Click here to read the study)

IBM worked with Oxford Economics to conduct a double-blind study of 800+ cloud decision makers across numerous countries (13), industries (24) and from companies of varying sizes. “Cloud decision makers” included IT leaders and line of business (LOB) leaders. Inclusion of LOB leaders led to one of the first interesting statistics: 72 percent of business leaders feel cloud will be “extremely important” to their business success in three years, compared to only 58 percent of their IT brethren.

The study revealed a clear break between three types of cloud adopters—pacesetters (18%), challengers (51%) and chasers (31%)—with pacesetters being those companies that have gone beyond leveraging cloud for IT efficiency and are focused now on differentiating their business.

The bulk of the study focused on comparing the behaviors and results of the pacesetters with those of the challengers and chasers. You probably want to read the study yourself, so I won’t reveal everything here. In the meantime, here are a few interesting insights:

  • There was a clear correlation between financial results of the pacesetters’ businesses vs. the others. The study does not imply that it is a causal correlation, but most likely a statement that those who aggressively adopt new IT capabilities to help their business are seeing it in the bottom line.
  • There was greater affinity with the use of cloud and the other emergent SMAC technologies—social, mobile and analytics.
  • There were some interesting “habits of highly effective” cloud adopters, including the use of an enterprise-wide cloud strategy, leveraging of hybrid cloud technologies, and use of open source cloud technologies.

At the end, each decision maker was asked where they thought cloud was going—what the “next big thing” would be. Not surprising, the pacesetters also had a good grasp on  nascent technology that will be big on the future—composable services leveraging PaaS for construction, (even bigger) big data, and industry-specific cloud-based solutions.

For those of you developing your company’s cloud strategy, the study suggests doing so with your business goals and IT goals in mind. On the business side, where can cloud help drive business differentiation? On the IT side, how can cloud technologies (hybrid cloud, open source, public cloud, etc) help you meet those business goals? The good news is that there are already some pacesetters out there showing you the way—but to draft on their success you can’t fall too far behind.

You can follow me on Twitter @rictelford as I track a lot of the happenings in the world of SMAC, look me up on LinkedIn, or follow me here on

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Ric Telford

About Ric Telford

Ric Telford is Vice President, IBM Cloud Services. Since joining IBM in 1983, he has led several key initiatives at the forefront of new technologies. He served as Director of Technology for the IBM CIO, responsible for the development, implementation and adoption of e-business technologies in IBM. His previous position was VP of Autonomic Computing; he was responsible for defining and driving the Autonomic Computing initiative for IBM.
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