Cloud

How I learned to sell to the ‘no’ people

This is a guest post by technology executive Roman Stanek 

Despite all the inroads cloud computing has made among business users, it still hasn’t broken through the enterprise IT logjam. I see it as a cultural issue: IT organizations love control and complexity. They love being able to code, flip switches and grab control of their systems. And they love complexity because, frankly, they think it saves their jobs.

Unable to free themselves of this anachronistic mindset, IT departments live in the land of the “no.” That’s “no,” as in: “No, you can’t bring in your own device,” and “no, we can’t build this new function you need because we’re too busy just keeping the lights on.”

So while business people are bypassing IT and subscribing to cloud-based apps that help them manage customer relationship management (CRM) functions with Salesforce.com, connect with customers using Zendesk, and collaborate with Box, most IT organizations remain focused on the mundane. And the irony? By embracing control and complexity, IT organizations have effectively isolated themselves within a technology ghetto. They are the opposite of strategic. And that means they aren’t protecting their jobs — they have become expendable.

I believe it’s imperative for SaaS providers to help IT people accept a new mindset and help them make the transition to what I like to call the age of IT enlightenment. Instead of owning the infrastructure — and spending 90 percent of their time just to “keep the lights on” — they need to assume new responsibilities related to governance, capacity planning, security, workflow across apps, and the rise of BYOD.

How we as an industry handle this challenge — in essence, how we help IT folks into the age of IT enlightenment — could reshape the entire market. Some IT organizations have already begun this transition, and are seeing the rewards. But for the rest…..

It starts with psychology: convincing IT folks that that they are not abdicating responsibility. They are delegating it. This will be easier said than done, since IT craves control especially when something goes wrong, as it inevitably will. The solution?

Deliver excellent SLA: Google Gmail, the world’s biggest cloud-based e-mail system, has an average uptime of 99.99 percent. Amazon targets 99.95 percent uptime for AWS. I challenge any IT organization to come close to those levels of reliability. Even so, we as SaaS providers need to show customers that our levels of reliability are at least the match of their legacy systems. Statistics like these are our friends.

Be as secure as a bank: Make sure you’ve checked off all the legal, security and governance requirements: SOC2, ISO/IEC 27000, PCI. Certificates like these are the best way to clear away the misperception that cloud computing isn’t secure. People put their money in a bank and not under their mattress because they trust a bank’s security system. As an industry, we have to show we’re just as trustworthy when safeguarding customers’ data.

Show IT how cloud computing can make them heroes: The days of touting cloud computing as the way to save money or increase flexibility are behind us. Cloud computing will replace legacy systems because it can transform IT into a strategic arm of business. The successful SaaS companies are fluent in explaining how that can happen. And that fluency can help bring more IT organizations out of the land of “no” and into the promise land of cloud computing.

My hope is that SaaS providers will be able to more easily sell to IT; as they’ll both be speaking the same language: the language of business.

Roman Stanek headshotRoman Stanek is the founder and CEO of GoodData, a company that offers a range of business intelligence software and reporting tools to help companies monetize big data. Prior to this, he was the founder of NetBeans.org, sold to Sun Microsystems, and Systinet, which was acquired by HP.

Follow him on Twitter @RomanStanek

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