Back in the day is no more
A little less than five years ago, I was treated to a tirade from the CIO of a very large Dutch insurer. It was aimed at us, his suppliers, and delivered in front of his entire management team. “We are not going in the Cloud, the Dutch National Bank won’t allow it!” Interestingly, a few days earlier I had spoken with a representative of the German National Bank who enthusiastically told me about how excited he was about their migration to the Cloud in the coming years. I responded just like everyone else in the room did: I left it alone. ‘Choose Your Battles,’ and ‘Timing Is Everything’ hold true, even in the Cloud!
Fortunately, a lot has changed. The old-school executive who commands and controls from on high has been largely replaced by an empowered team focused on innovation – and, due in part to the effects of Covid-19, the benefits of working in the Cloud have been rapidly adopted by the business community.
Around the same time, just a few years back, I heard the research agency Gartner boldly proclaimed at the IT Expo in Barcelona that “in a few years, almost every single organization will place a very large part of their IT in the Cloud.” This was quite a departure from their traditional, generally much more cautious, forecasts, and it captured a lot of attention. These forecasts helped start a trend in motion that has created a world of business opportunities.
How can I be a part of it?
Here’s the basic map of my ‘Road to the Cloud’ – in the near future, nearly every organization will go to the Cloud in some form. At the current moment, after first combining their own locations with private local data centers, many are ready to explore one or more of the public Clouds (AWS, Azure, Google, Alibaba, Oracle, etc.) Then, the’lll need to combine these and work towards continuous optimization (Hybrid and Distributed Cloud.)
So now is a very exciting, promising, and interesting time to be working in this space.
If you are beginning your career as Sales, Marketing, or Communications professional, you can quickly find a job – if you are able to think Cloud and can motivate others to get excited about it, lots of opportunity. But, what if you are from a generation (or two) above those who are now starting their careers? Does that make it more difficult to succeed in this industry?
Honestly, I ended up here because, as they say, I just fell into it. That kind of thing happens to me frequently, and it may be a side effect of my constant curiosity about what’s new and unknown.
About 15 years ago, I got a project from one of the first online insurance providers in the Netherlands. They were working on Digital Transformation’s central question: “What Does Our Customer Want?” and thinking about how to digitalize the entire insurance process. Microsoft was experimenting with AZURE then and, considering we had one of the first applications for it, we were able to travel the world with them and make the possibilities of Digital Transformation tangible.
A few years ago, I got a similar opportunity in the Private Cloud: a Dutch Data Center had plans for explosive growth and was looking for a Chief Commercial (CCO) who could accelerate it. The team worked incredibly hard and the result was phenomenal, but, again, the timing was advantageous. Many companies from our target markets wanted to move in the direction of the public Cloud, but they found going to a private Cloud first seemed like a good and reasonable idea. By listening closely to their needs, providing solid and relevant information, and actively working to address concerns, such as taking care of the migration, my client grew by leaps and bounds and has since become one of the largest players in Europe.
So, what is really next? Can you tell me?
Not likely, considering how Gartner has upped the ante with a stage beyond digital transformation called Continuous Next: looking out for the next big change with the understanding that, as soon as you find it, the next one is already out there waiting.
When you think of it like that, it seems next to impossible that you will ever be an expert in all top trends you’ll encounter over the course of your career. When you dare to let go of that, and understand that a good team consists of specialists, each with their own area of expertise and driven by cooperation and mutual respect, you’ll be looking at what is crucial to continued success. Look at a Formula 1 racing team: only two people can get a seat, but they have no chance of crossing the finish line first without a huge team of experts ensuring that the car is competitive.
The sales approach that works
Break it all down and you’ll see two main approaches to IT sales. The first has a deep knowledge of the product and the technology and sells from there. The second focuses on the customer relationship and the sales process. That hasn’t changed over the years – which should be reassuring to anyone who wasn’t born with a digital spoon (or an iPhone) in their mouths!
Over time, I have seen that there has always been a need for process sales. Continuous self-development – or at least curiosity – is mandatory for surviving Continuous Next.
When you are an IT specialist immersed in the field with a lot of technical knowledge, it can be easy to forget that not everybody immediately ‘gets’ the subject matter the way you do. That can lead people, your customers, to act just like that angry insurance executive: rejecting something outright because of fear of the unknown. What is ‘business as usual’ for us is a ‘once in a career’ event for our customers.
That’s why I’ve found it works best when IT companies function as a guide, who can take customers by the hand, so to speak, and lead them through the process. When you think of it that way, skills developed over the course of a career that allow you to take that approach are a competitive advantage, not a limitation.