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Most CIO’s Not Sold On Cloud? Good, They Shouldn’t Be…

I find it amusing that there is so much drama surrounding the notion of Cloud adoption.

There are those who paint Cloud as the savior of today’s IT great unwashed and others who claim it’s simply hype and not ready for prime time.

They’re both right and Cloud adoption is exactly where it should be today.

Here’s a great illustration: “Cloud or Fog? Two-Thirds of UK CIOs and CFOs Not Yet Sold on Cloud“:

Sixty-seven per cent of Chief Information Officers and Chief Financial Officers in UK enterprises say they are either not planning to adopt cloud computing (35 per cent) or are unsure (32 per cent) of whether their company will adopt cloud computing during the next two years, according to a major new report from managed hosting (http://www.ntteuropeonline.com/) specialists NTT Europe Online.

Whose perspective you share comes down to well-established market dynamics relating to technology adoption and should not come as a surprise to anyone.

One of the best-known examples of this can be visualized a by a graphical representation of what Geoffrey Moore wrote about it in his book “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers“:


Because I’m lazy, I’ll just refer you to the Wikipedia entry which describes “the Chasm” and the technology adoption lifecycle:

In Crossing the Chasm, Moore begins with the diffusion of innovations theory from Everett Rogers, and argues there is a chasm between the early adopters of the product (the technology enthusiasts and visionaries) and the early majority (the pragmatists). Moore believes visionaries and pragmatists have very different expectations, and he attempts to explore those differences and suggest techniques to successfully cross the “chasm,” including choosing a target market, understanding the whole product concept, positioning the product, building a marketing strategy, choosing the most appropriate distribution channel and pricing.

Crossing the Chasm is closely related to the Technology adoption lifecycle where five main segments are recognized; innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. According to Moore, the marketer should focus on one group of customers at a time, using each group as a base for marketing to the next group. The most difficult step is making the transition between visionaries (early adopters) and pragmatists (early majority). This is the chasm that he refers to. If a successful firm can create a bandwagon effect in which the momentum builds and the product becomes a de facto standard. However, Moore’s theories are only applicable for disruptive or discontinuous innovations. Adoption of continuous innovations (that do not force a significant change of behavior by the customer) are still best described by the original Technology adoption lifecycle. Confusion between continuous and discontinuous innovation is a leading cause of failure for high tech products.

Cloud is firmly entrenched in the Chasm, clawing its way out as the market matures*.

It will, over the next 18-24 months by my estimates arrive at the early majority phase.

Those who are today evangelizing Cloud Computing are the “technology enthusiasts” and “visionaries” in the “innovator” and “early adopter” phases respectively.  If you look at the article I quoted at the top of the blog, CIO’s are generally NOT innovators or early adopters, so…

So don’t be put off or overly excited when you see hyperbolic references to Cloud adoption because depending upon who you are and who you’re talking about, you’ll likely always get a different perspective for completely natural reasons.


* To be clear, I wholeheartedly agree with James Urquhart that “Cloud” is not a technology, it’s an operational model. So as not to confuse people, within the context of the “technology adoption curve” above you can likewise see how “model” or “paradigm” works, also.  It doesn’t really have to be limited to a pure technology.

  1. June 7th, 2009 at 09:00 | #1


    This is a great post. I am wondering if you would consider these questions.

    Do you think this perspective happens only for good technologies, or for bad ones too? In other words, can bad technologies cross the chasm and reach the end of the spectrum?

    Do you know if this perspective applies beyond technology, to ideas? Or more specifically, to business processes?

    Thank you.

  2. Roland Dobbins
    June 7th, 2009 at 15:08 | #2

    CIOs aren't 'sold' on cloud computing because it promises to bring glasnost and perestroika, and, ultimately, dismemberment, to the Soviet-style, obstructionist IT empires they've built up over the last couple of decades.

    The biz people – i.e., the folks who really matter, because they create value by delivering the products and services which pay for the party – are already sold on it, because they rightly see it as seizing back control of their organizations from the clutches of the IT nomenklatura.

    So, the CIOs need to either get with the program, or they're going to be out on their ears. After a couple of decades in this industry, I've become convinced that IT-related waste, fraud, abuse, apathy, incompetence, intransigence, and obfuscation are a huge drag on the economy as a whole, and are at least partially responsible for events ranging from losses and failures of individual businesses to the housing/mortgage bubble and current macro-level economic problems. The change can't come soon enough to suit me.

  3. Roland Dobbins
    June 7th, 2009 at 16:41 | #3

    @Richard Bejtlich

    Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm one of the most pernicious, destructive biz-type 'ideologies' I've ever encountered – even worse than the 'Six Sigma' nonsense of the 1990s.

    In fact, Moore copies some of the worst Six Sigma dogmatisms, such as implementing so-called 'business councils' and putting them in charge of development efforts and prioritization. These have the effect of fusing dumbed-down design-by-committee pap with a total abrogration of personal responsiblity for failure on the part of any identifiable individual.

    I've witnessed first-hand the negative effects of Crossing the Chasm on an organization once known for its pioneering, innovative engineering and groundbreaking invention, watching it slowly devolve into a charnel pit of self-marketers and myrmidons trying to get by on the innovations of the few truly creative individuals who've yet to throw in the towel, and who somehow miraculously manage to make it through the frothing sea of mediocrity. However, as the truly innovative folks have started to get fed up and leave, it's become more and more apparent that the model simply isn't sustainable.

    There's little or nothing in Crossing the Chasm which is new, unique, or actually useful, IMHO, and quite a bit which is wrongheaded and misguided.

  4. June 7th, 2009 at 16:57 | #4

    @Roland Dobbins

    So I take it you didn't like it? 😉


  5. Roland Dobbins
    June 7th, 2009 at 16:59 | #5


    No, it isn't quite my cup of tea.


  6. June 7th, 2009 at 17:12 | #6

    @Roland Dobbins

    Very interesting perspective; I've never heard the cloud pitched in quite this way, i.e. as a direct threat to the power structure of IT organizations. So where can I read more about this?

    I'm guessing it goes something like this:

    Business has always felt at the mercy of IT, as they can't make their ideas happen without them. As such, business will jump at any opportunity to bypass a centralized, powerful IT organization and deal directly with cloud providers that provide what they need without the hassle of "internal" squabbling. Basically, they get to treat IT like a vendor instead of like a partner, which is how they think it should have been all along.

    So, they can talk to cloud providers to communicate business needs, stand up infrastructure, and then pull in outsourced developers to work on said infrastructure. All with a minimal tech-savvy staff that just needs to be able to communicate to the outsourced vendors.

    Is this something like the idea? Please point me to some of your (and/or others') thoughts on the subject.

    And thanks for the post, Hoff.

  7. June 8th, 2009 at 00:53 | #7

    Roland, re: "I’ve witnessed first-hand the negative effects of Crossing the Chasm on an organization once known for its pioneering, innovative engineering and groundbreaking invention, watching it slowly devolve into a charnel pit of self-marketers and myrmidons trying to get by on the innovations of the few truly creative individuals who’ve yet to throw in the towel, and who somehow miraculously manage to make it through the frothing sea of mediocrity."

    i.e., Cisco?

  8. June 8th, 2009 at 05:53 | #8

    @Roland Dobbins That reminds me of a story Hal Pomeranz told about an accounting department that needed some numbers crunched. IT told them it would take a while to set up the necessary hardware, etc. Accounting rented some compute from Amazon and it was done overnight.

  9. Roland Dobbins
    June 8th, 2009 at 12:51 | #9

    @Richard Bejtlich

    I observed this behavior within organization into which I've some insight, that's all.

  10. Roland Dobbins
    June 8th, 2009 at 12:53 | #10

    @Jon Robinson

    Amazon's #1 customers by volume are . . . wait for it . . . big financials and big pharma, two groups notoriously paranoid about keeping all their IT machinations internal. The only plausible explanation for this is that the biz folks are tired of the obstructionism, laziness, and empire-building of their internal infoklatura.

    Desperate times call for desperate measures, heh.

  11. Roland Dobbins
    June 8th, 2009 at 13:46 | #11

    @Daniel Miessler

    You're 100% correct in your summation, IMHO.

    AFAIK, the only writings to date I know of on this particular aspect of the cloud model are to be found in my private correspondence and public comments here. I'm pretty sure Nick Carr shares at least some of this perspective, only by virtue of his longstanding interest in the topic of cloud/utility computing in general (I could be completely wrong, of course; I can't speak for Professor Carr).

    Having worked for and with IT organizations of varying sizes and scales over the last quarter-century, from single-man shops to high 5-figure departments, from small business to large publicly-traded companies, as well as civilian and military governmental organizations, it's my considered view that IT departments in general bear a signal responsibility both for the otherwise-inexplicable continued mainstream prevalence of primitive, poorly-designed and unreliable technologies and products; as well as the permanent state of security emergency in which we seem to find ourselves, which is largely a byproduct of the above.

    IT departments thrive on complexity, unreliability, opacity, ignorance, and fear; their livelihoods and empires are built upon the essential brokenness and unusability of the products and technologies <they themselves specify and recommend</i>. Just as the establishment of government bureaux intended solve any given societal problem is the best way to guarantee the permance and intransigence of said problem – after all, if all those bureaucrats had no problems to 'remedy' because the problems in question had finally been resolved, what would they themselves do for a living? – the establishment and funding of a dedicated and substantial IT department is the best way to ensure that information technology will never run smoothly, never become intuitive for users, will never be flexible or multifaceted in nature, and will never be secure or stable.

  12. Edmund
    June 8th, 2009 at 17:17 | #12

    The assumption behind Roland's comment is that (a) the business cares how the information they want is delivered and (b) that only outside vendors can deliver that information the way the business wants. In reality, in a functioning organization, the "business" is only interested in doing what they know best, the IT department makes that possible, and XaaS vendors are only interested in the profitability of delivering X.

    As an example, in a trading environment, the business is making decision based on the available information. The information, as far as the business is concerned, can come from anywhere. An effective IT organization will be dedicated to delivering all that information as reliably as (in)humanly possible. An effective IT organization will know and understand all possible methods of delivering that information. The notion that a single vendor or service provider will, in their limited portfolio, have the correct solution for a particular business problem is ridiculous. The delivery of information must tie in directly to how that information is used, and attempts to generalize how information is used are doomed to failure.

    The assumption seems to be that IT departments are an obstacle, and if only the business could bypass IT, they would be much more successful. This viewpoint is informed by an unbalanced viewpoint, seen by people who understand IT but have no clue about business they praise so highly. IT departments thrive when they are relevant, reliable, clear, open and honest. Firms which have cultivated an IT organization that matches Roland's description cannot succeed by suddenly embracing cloud computing, because an organization that breeds such an IT department is fundamentally dysfunctional.

  13. Roland Dobbins
    June 8th, 2009 at 18:54 | #13


    Having worked in and for large IT departments within large parent organizations, I couldn't disagree with you more. It is my contention that the mindset and motivations of many who pursue IT management as a career direction are inherently inimical to responsiveness, innovation, and agility. Instead, they're focused on control, control, and control.

    I'm not saying that the business side of organizations are perfect, or that there aren't empire-builders, incompetents, time-servers, et. al. within those departments, as well. What I am saying is that the conception of IT is that of a bureaucracy of control, and that like in all other bureaucracies, those who are dedicated to serving the overall goals of the parent organization are subverted or pushed out by those who are dedicated to furthering the perceived influence, wealth (in terms of money and personnel), and amount of control the IT department can exercise over the parent organization.

    I've seen this pattern of behavior and this dysfunctional bureaucratic culture manifest itself time and time again within organizations of radically different focus, size, geography, nationality, financial success, and corporate culture. No matter the differences and disparities of the parent organizations, the IT departments exhibit a dismaying degree of uniformity in this regard.

    There are exceptions, of course; but by and large, this is what I've seen and observed over the last 25 years or so, on a global basis. The wild popularity of Scott Adams' Dilbert comic strip is due in large part to the near-universality of the pathologies to which I allude, because just about everyone who's ever dealt with any IT department in any capacity recognizes the mentality of the Pointy-Headed Bosses (PHBs) from direct, and often painful, personal experience.

    I've experienced this phenomenon firsthand, both as an unwilling enabler as an IT staffer as well as in the more common role of a supplicant user doing anything within his largely nonexistent power to induce the high priests of IT to induldge his trivial and foolish requests for the tools necessary to do his job. It's real, it exists, and it's pernicious, IMHO.

    You set up and knocked down a straw-man with regards to the 'single vendor or service provider'; nowhere have I ever stated that a single vendor or service provider can be viewed as adequate for any organization's IT needs. In fact, my opposition to the current dominant culture of the corporate IT department is in fact rooted in my deeply-held conviction that no one organization can possibly serve the needs of a dynamic parent organization, and that diversity in suppliers/vendors/service providers is the only way the needs of the parent organization can be met.

    it is my belief that a large part of the solution to these dilemmas can be found by taking the mystery and obscurantism away from IT infrastructure and operations, encapsulating it within a binding contractual framework and generalizing it so that true competition is possible. Application, database, and network architects are key, along with a CSO-type role; the rest are dispsensable, and should in fact be dispensed with as soon as is practically possible, in most cases, IMHO.

  1. June 12th, 2009 at 03:18 | #1
  2. July 7th, 2009 at 07:50 | #2