Cloud computing has all the ingredients of a true revolution in the way business, governments and individuals handle information. Yet, contrary to most of the revolutions that preceded it, it lacks the ability to provide a real object that would symbolize it. The invention of the printing press produced books, then came automobiles, telephones, televisions, transistors, computers. All could be seen, touched and visualized. Cloud computing has to do with invisible flows (data) and processes because it is independent from the equipment and platforms it involves therefore it is much more difficult to describe, explain, and promote.
A perfect storm?
It is becoming clear that all organizations adopting (or considering to adopt) the cloud, whether public or private, acknowledge this technology as a tool for better management. In other words, cloud computing is not just regarded as a way to cut costs and access new resources and processes, but also as a transformative tool by which business strategies, business models, competition and innovation can be improved and qualitatively changed.
Europe, and the skills challenge
Identifying and mastering the most profitable aspects of cloud computing will require the development of specific skills at all levels of public and private organizations. Such skills will include for example the ability to think strategically across platforms, sectors and functions. It will also include a distinct capacity to identify new opportunities by which existing comparative advantages can be leveraged through cloud computing. This calls for innovative and curious minds that are able to spot relevant experiences from other firms, other sectors and other countries.
Can European businesses and public entities identify and mobilize such skills in the short run? If they do not already have them on board, how can they attract and keep them? How can private business, universities and governments cooperate to generate them? Thus are some of the questions that will need to be addressed rapidly, imaginatively and decisively if cloud computing is to fully play its role as a competitiveness booster and as a game changer in Europe, as it has started to do in other parts of the world.
By: Bruno Lanvin , Executive Director, eLab, INSEAD