Counting the Cloud’s Blessings

It amazes me that there are still analyst reports and other industry studies questioning the value of today’s cloud solutions. While there is no question that the return on investment will vary depending on a variety of factors, there is plenty of evidence that anyone who employs cloud solutions thoughtfully today can generate plenty of measurable and tangible business benefits.

I set out to clearly demonstrate this contention three years ago when I launched THINKstrategies’ Best of SaaS Showplace (BoSS) Awards. If you recall, 2009 was the year when the financial world seemed to be coming apart at its seams because of the subprime mortgage debacle and other catastrophic business failures in the auto industry and elsewhere.

At the time, I was afraid that the downturn in the financial markets would lead to a retrenchment in the venture business that might significantly reduce funding for a growing array of SaaS and other cloud startups. I didn’t want to see the cloud movement suffer the same fate as the failed ideas of the dot-com era. So, I decided to create an awards program in 2009 to recognize SaaS vendors delivering measurable business benefits to their customers.

No Beauty Contest

I didn’t want the awards program to be a beauty contest or be based on subjective opinions. Instead, I established a simple set of criteria for applicants to qualify for the BoSS Awards:

  • Companies have to offer a SaaS solution in general availability, not beta.
  • They must be able to quantify the business benefits of their SaaS solution(s) for specific users.
  • They must be able to name the user organization(s) and provide contact information for someone who can verify the business benefits the organization(s) received.
  • The user organization(s) must be willing to have their name and success story included in a public announcement issued by THINKstrategies and posted on our Cloud Computing Showplace.

The response to the BoSS Awards was immediate and overwhelming, because no one else was recognizing the business benefits of SaaS solutions at the time. We issued awards nearly every week for more than a year. The success of the BoSS Awards led to the launch in 2010 of the Cloud Computing Business Value (CCBV) Awards to recognize Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) vendors offering solutions that also deliver measurable business benefits. In total, THINKstrategies has issued more than 100 awards over the past three years.

Relative Unknowns

What is especially interesting about the award winners is that they have been relatively unknown cloud vendors delivering measurable benefits to a wide array of small- and mid-size businesses (SMBs), as well as large-scale enterprises. The award winners not only include many SaaS vendors delivering business applications, but also a growing number of vendors offering cloud-based IT management tools.

For instance, independenceIT (iIT) enables organizations to rapidly transition from traditional, on-premises IT to the cloud via a centralized platform for managing multiple locations and supporting dispersed workforces. Student Transportation Inc. (STI), a publicly traded yellow school bus company with more than 7,300 buses and 110 offices across the U.S. and Canada estimates that it has saved approximately US$7.6 million in annual IT costs using the iIT solution because it has been able to hold its IT costs below 1 percent while other companies its size were spending 3.55 percent of revenues on their IT operations, according to the Society of Information Management’s 2011 Annual CIO survey.

Bringing attention to these success stories has been gratifying, because it provides undeniable evidence of the tangible business value of today’s cloud solutions.

Jeffrey M. Kaplan

Jeff Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies and founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace. He can be reached at [email protected].

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