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My Cloud Learning journey: Part 3 “We need to talk to Kevin”

HaleyC

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Guest Post by Tim Clayton, Marketing Business Services

As part of my ongoing series to learn about the Cloud from the point of view of the totally uninitiated and try to make some sense of it, I’m told “You need to speak to Kevin Stoll. He’s the reality of cloud.” I nod, smile, and wonder what on Earth that means. I get an image in my head of Kevin as some ancient, Eastern mystic or as one of those inspirational Internet memes. The Reality of Cloud. It seems important but is vague and probably meaningless when you really dig down into it. ‘Be the you that you could be if the you that you were really being could really be you’. That kind of thing…

Kevin Stoll, a Client Principal for Helion OpenStack Professional Services, is an easy guy to talk to; he’s laid-back and funny, he comes across as a person who knows everything he possibly can about his subject but is free of any arrogance that this might bring. An hour flies by in the blink of an eye and, in the course of those 60 minutes, he has stripped away quite a few misconceptions I had and somehow made the Cloud make a lot more sense.

Misconception One: ‘The reality of cloud’ is a silly phrase that means nothing at all.

It turns out that the reality of cloud is how people like Kevin—who can talk tech language and acronyms all day long—communicate with people like me and make the cloud into a real, tangible thing. The engineering and pre-sales communities have what Kevin refers to as “an interesting spectrum of knowledge” but they don’t necessarily have the ability to translate this to the client. Kevin, as a member of Professional Services, is one of the guys who goes into a client’s business and shares a laptop with them, sitting together at a desk, to explain how the theoretical capabilities of as-a-Service solutions can bring real world results. What they meant by “You need to speak to Kevin” is: “Kevin is a guy who spends his days breaking down the vagaries of cloud for people like yourself.”

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It reminds me of the very first advice I was given when I started teaching many years ago: “The best teacher is not the one with the most knowledge; it is the one who is best able to explain complex things in simple ways.” Kevin has the knowledge, but the reality of cloud is about educating people, speaking on their level, and helping them through the process to get to the best end result.

As for the word Cloud, like myself, Kevin is not a fan. “I call it could instead of cloud,” he says. “It has become sardonic; something of a euphemism.” So, in fact, you won’t find Kevin talking about the reality of cloud at all, you’ll just hear him talking about real solutions for business.

 

Misconception Two: Big companies are much more clued up about cloud than SMBs.

Kevin’s daily work sends him around the globe, working with some of the behemoths of industries as diverse as banking, airlines, and agriculture, as well as government institutions. His clients are all organizations that we have all heard of; their turnovers are measured with seemingly endless amounts of zeroes. I figure this means his job must be pretty easy. Surely if a company is that large, it is already using some pretty high-spec tech and will have people who are familiar with cloud and ready for the change?

Not so. Kevin says that the size of a company has no correlation to its capability. A multi-billion–dollar  enterprise can struggle in comparison to a smart SMB; on the other hand, some SMBs are not clued up at all while some enterprises are full of technologically-minded innovators who are experts in as-a-Service solutions. There is no golden rule but Kevin claims that he can work out if a proposed project is going to end successfully after the first hour of the first phone call. And the word he keeps circling back to in this discussion is not knowledge, or experience, or budget, or strategy. All of those things matter, but the one factor that Kevin thinks is essential is a company’s culture.typewriter.jpg

This can mean where the HQ is based, the age of the industry, the background of the people who work there, and, above all else, the target demographic. If the end users of the product or service are the under-35 market, there is a great chance that the company is going to be ready for cloud… because its users are ready for cloud and they dictate the direction that solutions need to be moving in.

It is not the size of a company that matters; it is the people, both inside and outside of the office.

 

Misconception Three: It’s getting easier to sell Cloud solutions as people know more about them.

We were chatting on the phone but I think Kevin probably had a wry smile at this. My preconceived idea was, of course, wrong. Spectacularly wrong. And not just on one level but on a number of them. Here are just three ways in which I missed the mark:

  • Sure, it is getting easier to talk to people about Cloud, as they at least have the dictionary around the subject that was not there a few years back. We also now have use cases that are part of the wider public conscience and we can leverage to help people understand how solutions could work for them. But—and it is a big BUT, in imposing capital letters—the rate of innovation and development is so fast that people who don’t have their finger on the pulse cannot understand the cloud of today. There may be a better understanding of Cloud out there, but it is an understanding of Cloud on a level that bears little relevance to the reality of today. Average people are able to talk about Cloud 1.0, but Cloud 2016 is already a world away.
  • No amount of show-and-tell, benefit-analysis or barnstorming presentations will make a guy who is cruising towards retirement in third gear suddenly want to shake things up and try something new. There are exceptions; however, a number of companies—especially in the megalithic business world that Kevin works in—have done things a certain way for a very long time and they have a built-in resistance to change. Add to that the fact that a lot of the decision-makers are basically in “tenured” positions and it makes implementing a Cloud solution a tough sell.
  • Even if people think they know about Cloud, they are often wrong about what it offers. There are those who seem to think that PaaS stands for “Perfect Any Awful Stuff”, believing that moving to a PaaS model will suddenly make bad applications run well. But Kevin is quick to point out that bad code is just bad code—putting it into a better framework is not going to take away a company’s R&D issues or get rid of the bugs. So, there are those who know about PaaS and are an easier sell, but they are often expecting magic where there is none on offer. As Kevin says: “We need to propagate best practices and ground these people in reality, not offer PaaS as a cure-all solution.”

phone.jpgKevin’s job is all about convincing big companies to take a journey with cloud. They are no longer selling revolution over a 36-month period. The new business model is to work together, in iterations, developing the partnership and solutions offered as the technology appears and the business becomes ready to use them. Procedures and habits in big corporations can be the death knell for innovation, but moving innovation by 2% in a worldwide concern can mean billions of dollars. Kevin achieves that by sitting next to people like myself, for months at a time, and bringing the theory of cloud into their reality.

About the Author

HaleyC

I manage the HPE Helion social media brand accounts promoting the enterprise cloud solutions at HPE for hybrid, public, and private clouds.I have put my toes in the ocean of cloud evangelism for the enterprise IT industry. But my expertise is in Social Media and Digital Marketing.

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