A number of years, an executive at a vendor made a very honest and very funny comment to me during a briefing. The gist of it was this: For years, they’d disdained the technologies that Generation X was interested in — Linux, open source, and so forth. They had, in fact, been generally contemptuous of them, and of the up-and-coming young’uns in corporate IT who were interested in those technologies. And then, ten years passed, and those Gen Xers that they’d been so dismissive of began getting promoted to director-level in corporate IT. And so now they were in charge of sourcing — and they hated that vendor.
That vendor ended up having to spend a lot of money on a marketing campaign that was targeted at Gen X, but I don’t think they’ve ever fully recovered from those years. Even though they’re now perfectly capable of managing the new generation of technology, they are still perceived as stodgy, and not a vendor to look to for innovation (despite actually being pretty innovative, compared to their competitors).
Over the last two years, I’ve been seeing a lot of echoes of that in my conversations with vendors, including service providers. (The naysayer rhetoric around public cloud sometimes sounds a lot like the naysayer rhetoric around Linux in the 1990s.) Cloud naysayers talk about how the enterprise will never trust outside providers or shared environments, be willing to give up most if not all customization in order to drive cost and agility, and so forth. But even if at least part of this generation of IT leadership feels that way, the next generation is highly unlikely to. Digital natives will soon reach crucial levels of IT decision-making even in the traditional enterprise, and there’s a truly cloud-native generation entering the workforce, as well, who will start exerting corporate purchasing power in a few years. The entire mindset of an organization and its approach to sourcing ultimately often hinges on individuals, and generational turnover in IT management shouldn’t be ignored.
Vendors who dismiss the significance, importance, and reality of public cloud computing risk silently alienating future IT leaders. There’s a difference between a realistic immediate approach to the market, which has to acknowledge enterprise concerns and ways of doing business and create a path to migrate to the cloud, and conveying the sense that cloud isn’t for real businesses.