ITOe – Speakers – Nordic Innovation & Agility

I’ll be talking about cloud computing and outsourcing at the Nordic Innovation and Agility forum  in Stockholm in April…

ITOe – Speakers – Nordic Innovation & Agility.

The title of my talk will be “The business of cloud computing – innovation and agility” with my focus on the way cloud computing can support innovation and drive agility in businesses. Along the way I will (probably) discuss cloud computing and the Large Hadron Collider, Smart-cities and Big-data – exploring how high capacity and agile computing can support agile business practices and innovation.

I hope you can make it!


Forbes has four predictions for 2013… I challenge them all

Over on Forbes Antonio Piraino makes four predications for the year ahead:

Cloud Computing: Four Predictions For The Year Ahead – Forbes.

I want to discuss my opinion of each of them.

1) “The cloud wars are (still) rumbling and they’re getting louder”. 

I sort of agree with the sentiment of this; that companies will be looking for value-add from cloud providers rather than simple metrics (such as network, storage or service). However I completely disagree that a battle will unfold next year – I think this is a growing market and we are seeing clear differentiation between offerings. The giants in this space are, in my opinion, desperately trying to carve out a none-competitive space in the growing cloud market, rather than going head-to-head in the battle the author  describes. For that way lies only commodity offering and a drive to the bottom. I suspect that differentiation will be a more likely tactic than “war”.

2) “A titanic cloud outage will create a domino effect”. 

The article argues that “As more IT resources are moved to the cloud, the chance of a major outage for a corporate enterprise… becomes exponentially more likely to occur”. Really? How on earth can the increasing outsourcing of service lead to an exponential increase in risk? The risk is dependent upon a number of factors:

1) Capability of the cloud provider to manage the service (again not dependent on the number of services managed)

2) Capability of the cloud user to contract effectively for risk (again not dependent on the number of services outsourced).

3) Multiplexing of services on a single site – this is dependent on the number of cloud users, however it is an architectural issue as to whether the risk increases. It is certainly not exponential that five companies sharing one building are at greater individual risk than if they each have their own building. The analogy of airline accidents v.s. car accidents comes to mind.  When a plane fails it looks catastrophic, but more people die on the roads.

The article goes on to say that “If an unexpected cloud outage were to take place within the context of [ financial services trades] , the banks would stand to be heavily penalized for incompliance” – I absolutely agree – because if they weren’t adopting defensive approaches to moving to the cloud they would be incompetent. As a recent Dell think-tank I was part of discussed, banks are already moving to the cloud, and for mission critical activity, but they are working with cloud providers to ensure that they are getting the same level of protection and assurance as the would in-house. Like any outsourcing relationship it is incumbent on the purchaser to understand the risk, and manage it. Indeed banks should be evaluating the risk of all their ICT whether in-house or external – as the high-profile failures at Natwest recently demonstrated in-house IT can be  risky too!

3) A changing role for the CIO. 

Here I  agree with the article. Governments will get more involved in regulation relevant to cloud, and this will create new opportunities. Whether CIOs  will act as “international power-brokers, ambassadors even diplomats” as the article suggests depends on how they move to the cloud – many cloud providers intention is to create cloud offerings which do not demand an understanding of international law. I also doubt that the “human-responsibilities will shrink” – this only counts if organisations see cloud as outsourcing rather than opportunity  – many CIOs are probably realising that while they are loosing headcount in certain ways (e.g. those data-centre administrators) they need skills in new applications only possible with the availability of cloud. How many CIO’s imagined managing  data-analytics and social-networking specialists a few years ago?

4) Death of the desktop as we know it.

“The expectation is that an employee’s mobile device is now their workspace, and that they are accountable for contributing to work on a virtually full time basis…”  I am intrigued by the idea of what is going to happen to the desktop PC. I know I use my smartphone and ipad a lot, but usually for new things rather than the same activities I  use my laptop for. For example I annotate PDF’s on the train,  read meeting notes during meetings, even look at documents in the bath. These are in addition to the use of my desktop PC or laptop (which I use for writing and for the host of applications I require for my work and for which I require a keyboard and solid operating system). Yes I bring-my-own-device to work, but I either demand a “desktop” like environment to run on it (i.e. integrated applications and services) in which case the management of the virtual desktop applications is as complex as the physical assets (save the plugging in and purchasing). And the idea that I will use my own device on a “virtually full time basis” is clearly none-sense… health and safety would not allow a person using a screen all day to have a smart-phone or tablet as that screen.

I don’t deny that PC’s will change, and that the technological environment of many industries is changing. But my question is whether this will increase or decrease the amount of work for the CIO? My earlier post (Cloud Computing its so 1980s) pointed out that the demand for applications within industry has not remained static or decreased – we will only increase our demand for applications. The question is then whether managing them will become easier or more difficult. For me the jury is still out but if pushed, it is for this reason that I think Windows 8 could be successful in this space.

I believe many of us are waiting for a device which capitalises on the benefits of tablets and smartphones, but which will run the complex ERP and office applications our businesses have come to rely upon. Sure we could try to make do with an iPad or Android device, but Windows 8 promises the opportunity to use the full industry proof applications we already have in a new way. I anticipate seeing lots more of these Windows 8  devices in the next few years – though  with many of the applications becoming much lighter on the desktop. After all the iPad and smartphone demonstrated the importance of locally running Apps not of cloud services…  they were just smaller and easier to manage applications.



Future of cloud computing: looking at the bigger questions | Cloud Pro

Max Cooter has written an interesting article in CloudPro on the Dell Think-tank I participated in this week….

Future of cloud computing: looking at the bigger questions | Cloud Pro.

I very much liked the last paragraph:

“I was reminded at this point of the scene in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar just after the assassination when Cassius says “How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted o’er, in states unborn and accents yet unknown.” The cloud scenario is going to be played in thousands of unborn companies using technologies yet unknown – any company who thinks that cloud is a fad or some sort of media hype is going to be left far behind.”

History repeating: Why cloud computing could revisit the mistakes of the 1980s PC boom | TechRepublic

A conference speech I gave a couple of weeks ago is reported in a nice piece on TechRepublic…

History repeating: Why cloud computing could revisit the mistakes of the 1980s PC boom | TechRepublic.

But if you want to read a more detailed piece on this idea check out the original posting on this blog:

Advanced Outsourcing Practice : Palgrave Macmillan

I’ve just received my authors’ copy of the  book…  Advanced Outsourcing Practice : Palgrave Macmillan.

Mary and Leslie have done a great job describing the key challenges of contemporary outsourcing – including our chapter on  “Shifting to Cloud Services: Current Challenges and Future Opportunities”.

Clouds and Coffee: User affordance and information infrastructure

Some desktop coffee machines (e.g. figure 1) are now connected to the Internet (Pritchard, 2012).  Such devices are enrolled within increasingly complex information infrastructures involving cloud services. This form of entanglement creates mazes of unexpected heterogeneous opportunities and risks (Latour, 2003), yet users ability to perceive such opportunity and risk is limited their lack of visceral understanding of such entanglement. It is this understanding of the cloud by the user which is the focus of blog posting. Such a coffee maker “calls out” (Gibson, 1979) to users’ with a simple offering – its ability to make coffee. Its form attests to this function with buttons for espresso and latte, nozzles for dispensing drinks, and trays to catch the drips. To any user experienced in modern coffee this machine affords (Norman, 1990; Norman, 1999) the provision of coffee in its form and function keeping its information infrastructure hidden from view – only an engineer can understand that this machine is communicating.

Yet such assemblages of plastic, metal and information technology are a “quasi-object” (Latour, 2003)– complicated cases requiring political assemblies and no longer “matters of fact” but instead “states of affairs” (Latour, 2003).  Such a coffee maker is a drinks dispensing service (representing a service-dominant logic (Vargo & Lusch, 2004; Vargo, 2012)), provided through an assembly of material and immaterial objects whose boundary and ultimate purpose remain unclear.  While the device above only communicates about its maintenance, other machines may go further. Such machines’ users, hankering for an espresso to get them through a boring conference, may be kept unaware that the infrastructure is monitoring his choices to influence global coffee production, to ensure the output is sufficiently tepid and dull to damage his economic productivity, or that the device is recording and transmitting his every word.   He may be annoyed to discover his coffee is stronger than his female colleagues as gender profiling based on image recognition decides the “right” coffee for him. He may be horrified that the device ceases to work at the very moment of need because of a fault in contract payments within the accounts department – perhaps caused by their tepid weak coffee.

Similarly companies involved in providing the coffee and milk for such machines might become enrolled in this reconfiguration (Normann, 2001) of coffee service, an enrolment which could reconfigure the knowledge asymmetries within the existing market.  Suddenly an engineering company who previously made plastic and metal coffee machines is now in a position to better understand coffee demand than coffee growers or retailers. The machine itself could negotiate automatically on local markets for its milk provision, or compare material prices with similar machines in other markets, and even alter prices of coffee for consumers based on local demand. Through the enrolment of information infrastructures within a coffee service the knowledge of the coffee market shifts.

All this has happened already to the market for music (increasingly controlled by a purveyor of sophisticated walkmen using a cloud service) and more recently ebooks (increasingly controlled by a book retailer and their sophisticated book readers).   Now imagine the emergence of the smart-city with huge numbers of devices from street-lights to refrigerators connected to the cloud. How will the user of such smart-cities understand what they are interacting with – the quasi-objects they used to consider objects? How will such objects afford their informational uses alongside their more usual functions?

At the centre of this reconfiguration of material objects is a computer system residing in the cloud aggregating information. It is the aggregation of data from devices which may be central to the lessons of the cloud for SmartCities.

(© Will Venters 2012).



Gibson JJ (1979) The Ecological Approach to Perception. Houghton Mifflin, London.

Latour B (2003) Is Re-modernization Occurring-And If So, How to Prove It? Theory, Culture & Society 20(2), 35-48.

Norman D (1990) The Design of Everyday Things. The MIT Press, London.

Norman D (1999) Affordance, Conventions, and Design. Interactions ACM 6(3), 38-43.

Normann R (2001) Reframing Business: When the map changes the landscape. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester.

Pritchard S (2012) Mobile Comms: Coffee and TV. IT Pro, Dennis Publishing Ltd, London.

Vargo S and Lusch R (2004) Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing. The Journal of Marketing 68(1), 1-17.

Vargo SL (2012) Service-Dominant Logic: Reflections and Directions. Unpublished Powerpoint, Warwick,UK.

Virtualizing Networking and the Cloud Corporation

“The truth is, in 10 years, you’re not going to have highly skilled, highly paid people working with networking hardware.”.

via Mavericks Invent Future Internet Where Cisco Is Meaningless | Wired Enterprise |

In a fascinating article (sent to me by Ayesha Khanna – thanks) Wired’s Cade Metz explores the growth of a company which abstracts and virtualises networks through software.

Why is this interesting to me? Because I have argued that as cloud computing moves the data-centre from inside organisations to the cloud we are likely to see cloud ecosystems emerge in which companies integrate cloud provided services to create new forms of potentially more collaborative organisations – something I termed “the cloud corporation”. For example a drinks company and ice-cream company might integrate element of their cloud based EPR systems to develop and sell a new type of iced drink. But achieving this would require relaxations in their security and networking – the cloud based ERP sits in the public internet, and users must leave the corporate network to interact with the ERP.

However virtualising the network suggests the opportunity to dynamically create a new type of  network, flexibly created in software, which integrates elements of the ice-cream, drinks and EPR companies networks into a wholly private -albeit virtualised – network shared between them all. Significantly achieving this would be a simple reconfiguration of the network software of these companies – rather than involving the installation and messy configuraiton of VPN appliances, and various routers etc.  Creating new types of collaborative businesses is thus all about the configuration of cloud-based software… no hardware involved.  One step on the way to a kind of plug-and-play corporate collaborative arrangements.

Our Fifth Report is out – Management implications of the Cloud

The fifth report in our Cloud Computing series for Accenture has just been published. This report looks at the impact Cloud Computing will have on the management of the IT function, and thus the skills needed by all involved in the IT industry. The report begins by analysing the impact Cloud might have in comparison to existing outsourcing project. It considers the core-capabilities which must be retained in a “cloud future”, considering how these capabilities might be managed, and the role of systems integrators in managing the Cloud.

Please use the comments form to give us feedback!

Cloud and the future of Business 5 – Management .

Executive Training in Enterprise Outsourcing and Cloud Computing

I am teaching again on our one-week executive education course on Enterprise Outsourcing at the LSE, contributing  my Cloud Computing expertise into a wider course on Enterprise Outsourcing and Innovation. Join us if you are able!

Managing the Outsourcing Enterprise: From Cost to Innovation and Cloud Services

Professor Leslie P. Willcocks 
Dr Edgar Whitley
Dr Will Venters
Professor Mary Lacity

Dates:  25 June – 29 June 2012
Fee: £4,650

Course Objectives

This course offers in-depth coverage of the key issues, developments and management challenges in today’s global sourcing marketplace. It provides a learning vehicle and tools , in terms of key frameworks, principles and practices, for those preparing themselves for general management  in major organizational functions or for more specific global sourcing roles, and also for experienced managers who wish to move to the next level. It  focuses on the needs of managers and senior executives working in client companies and service suppliers. It covers global sourcing, strategy, Information Technology outsourcing (ITO) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) including the most recent developments in sourcing and offshoring  for such major areas as HR, Finance and Accounting, Procurement, Legal and Knowledge (KPO) functions.


  • Gain a thorough knowledge of effective management lessons and techniques to develop and implement sourcing strategy, operate as an informed buyer, select suppliers,  and manage and deliver outsourcing services from both client and supplier perspectives
  • Develop in-depth understanding of global trends in the sourcing marketplace and how sourcing fits with corporate competitive and collaborative strategies.
  • Draw on an unrivalled LSE Outsourcing Unit research base of over 1500 outsourcing arrangements in Asia Pacific, USA and Europe, and 20 years of publications and working papers on global sourcing trends, country and IT industry analyses, together with case histories of effective client and supplier practices.
  • Learn from up-to-the-minute case studies, negotiating exercises, guest executives and cutting edge research projects, including on bundled services, cloud computing, selective sourcing strategy, offshore locations..
  • Improve your ability to analyse sourcing challenges and questions and make more effective assessments and decisions
  • Develop your skills and marketability in increasingly key areas for contemporary organizations in a global context.

This course will address the following key topics

  • Global context and trends –offshoring, country attractiveness, key decisions
  • Moving To The Strategic Agenda – alignment, configuration, distinctive capabilities
  • Preparing For Outsourcing – 9-phase life-cycle, negotiation, selection, requisite supplier capabilties
  • Making The Transition – Contracts, HR and service challenges, change management, SLA and scorecards,
  • Managing Outsourcing – control, relationships, leveraging suppliers
  • Regeneration and Outsourcing Futures – options decisions case histories, trends to harness.

The course reader, especially prepared for this executive practitioner module is: Leslie Willcocks, Sara Cullen and Andrew Craig (2011) The Outsourcing Enterprise: From Cost Management To Collaborative Innovation (Palgrave, London

Google persuades Spanish bank BBVA to use the cloud

BBC News – Google persuades Spanish bank BBVA to use the cloud.

So a bank finally “goes Google” for its enterprise software (albeit for desktop productivity applications only).