4. Think Business Consulting, Not Infrastructure Management
Software and infrastructure as a service are steadily turning infrastructure administration from a high-margin market to a low-margin afterthought, a trend that understandably frightens anyone who makes his or her money watching over hardware and software. According to West, however, turning that thinking on its head is a key to prospering in the Cloud 2.0 age.
“We’ve got to shift our mindset from maintaining Active Directory to creatively solving business problems using modern technology,” he says.
That means becoming a strategic IT consultant to your clients and leaving the infrastructure management to Amazon, Microsoft, and other cloud operators. The rewards, West notes, will come in the form of steeper margins and stickier customer relationships.
5. Staff Up on Specialists
Fundamentally, Cloud 2.0 consultants help customers learn from and act on the information in their cloud-based solutions. “What you’re essentially doing is helping them get more value from their data,” West says.
That takes two kinds of employees with specialized skills, he continues: analysts and architects. The analysts help companies identify inefficient workflows and new market opportunities. The architects translate those needs into concrete solutions.
In a tight IT labor market especially, Kaplan observes, filling those roles is typically neither easy nor cheap. “Those kinds of people don’t just fall off trees,” he says.
6. Cultivate a Niche
To make big money in Cloud 2.0, advises Khan, focus more on specific applications of cloud technology than on “the cloud” generically.
“We use the term so broadly that everybody just thinks they should do everything,” he says. “You basically have to build a core competency around a particular niche area.”
That can be a vertical industry such as retail or manufacturing, or a solution category such as analytics or CRM. To find the best option for your business, West advises, take a close look at what you know and who you serve today.
“What are the skills and abilities and competencies of your internal staff, and what are the opportunities within your existing customer base and local market?” he asks. The answers will guide you to the areas of expertise you can build a Cloud 2.0 practice around.