The Cloud Is Not a Fluffy Magic Box

It’s just another delivery method for multi-tenant SaaS. That’s it. Nothing more. After reading some recent articles trumping the tenets of the Cloud, and this article in World Trade in particular that asks if supply chain management [is] emerging from the clouds, I feel that I need to make this point abundantly clear. Reading this article, I get the feeling that most people think the Cloud is a fluffy magic box that will solve all their problems. It’s not. Nowhere close. It’s just another multi-tenant SaaS delivery model where a third party maintains the data centre that is used by the software / service / solution provider you buy / license / contract your supply chain management solutions from. This allows the vendor to focus on their strengths (software development & delivery) and the third party Cloud provider to focus on their strengths (on-demand data centre).

To help you better understand what the Cloud is, I’m going to point out what it is not using egregious examples from the aforementioned WT article.

  • two aspects to the benefit of cloud computing … the second is … increased visibility across organizational boundaries

    This has nothing to do with the delivery model, but who is given access to the platform and how many suppliers and partners buy in to the platform. If you don’t give more of your employees, partners, suppliers, and customers access or if they refuse to use the platform, it doesn’t matter if its Cloud, traditional multi-tenant vendor-hosted SaaS, or ASP.

  • critical information can be analyzed by using cloud-based supply chains to see if cost efficiencies are being realized

    This has nothing to do with the delivery model, but the data and analytics software at your disposal.

  • Cloud-based supply chain solutions give these organizations the ability to quickly scale and compete as the global economy bounces back

    So does traditional multi-tenant SaaS.

  • a means to automate many standard processes while managing the exceptions more effectively

    This is entirely dependent upon the capabilities of the software.

  • a typical cloud supply chain solution already has all of the infrastructure in place … when a client comes to us, we are able to connect them to a rich community of partners almost instantaneously

    This is true of traditional multi-tenant SaaS vendor platforms that maintain supplier communities, as well as current marketplaces and third-party exchanges. The Cloud just provides a new delivery model for the platforms.

  • cloud-based supply chain solutions can improve competitive advantage

    This comes down to the TCO and ROI of the solution and how it stacks up to the TCO and ROI of the other solutions under consideration.

And if this wasn’t bad enough, just before it went offline, Purchasing reached new lows in software’s future breaks through the “clouds” where it called cloud computing a killer app, which shows a complete and utter lack of understanding about what the cloud is. An app is what you run on a platform, it is not the platform. (Of course, it’s still better than calling Twitter a killer app for Purchasing, which they also did. Aargh!)

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Cloud is great because, done right, it maximizes the efficiencies of SaaS and virtualized, on-demand, data centre models. However, it’s not a magical box that will solve all your problems and hyping it like it is does more harm than good because the uninformed will buy in, and then quickly abandon it when they see it does them no more good than their current solution because they didn’t take into account that everything has to fit perfectly — software, platform, solution partners, etc. — in order to realize additional value, and this will often necessitate upgrades to systems and software and processes across the board.

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