Who’s Dictating Cloud App’s in the Enterprise?

My name is Alan Berkson and I’m a cloud-aholic. I Dropboxed my SkyDrive and CRM’ed my Evernote into my Google Apps mailbox. I’m a victim of cloud sprawl. Are you with me on this one?

I am experiencing cloud application overload. But they’re so cool. The lure of the next latest and greatest is irresistible. And there’s always a new one to test. Isn’t that what being a geek is all about — playing with new toys? They do it on purpose. They throw some cool, useful features at you and at some point you can’t live without them anymore. The freemium model to the nth degree.

As an individual, this is a challenge. For business, it’s an information technology nightmare. I recently wrote about how the iPhone — and Siri in particular —  has created challenges for enterprise IT departments. The challenge lies around the ease with which these applications are adopted by individual users and casually applied for business use. There is a great deal of utility and value in apps, but there’s something missing that will tip the risk/reward balance to make cloud apps useful for widespread business use.

There’s An App For That

So what’s missing? While I love my cloud apps, most of them lack a few key characteristics for enterprise adoption. Let’s start with security, control, and interoperability. For many years Microsoft ruled the roost because they were able to pull together those very features — most of what a business needed to operate — in a single family of applications, with common user experience, data security and standardized inter-application communication.

The challenge? We now have the ubiquitous phrase “there’s an app for that.” As IT consumers we are being trained to find our own solutions to our technology problems. Or, better (worse?) yet, we are being trained to find our own technology solutions to our problems.

As an individual it’s tough enough. For businesses, the outlook is even more, dare I say, cloudy. As I struggle with integrating cloud apps into an overall strategy — do I really need Dropbox, Skydrive AND Amazon Cloud Drive — it only highlights the challenges for cloud apps in the enterprise.

Cloud Sprawl

Are individual consumers dictating best practices for the corporations they work for? You don’t have to be a technology person to find a solution anymore. This is not new. For decades we have seen pockets of technology within the enterprise. However, today, as a corporate CIO/CTO/CEO you can no longer ignore it or avoid it. Employees have greater than ever access to possibly superior tools to do their work. How do you keep up with that?

This issue is not going away. As I’ve written before, it’s about control. To combat this App-lefication, do we need more Big Brother, not less?


There are many elephants in the room when it comes to the cloud application space. You can start with the Big 4 that Phil Simon deftly breaks down in the Age of the Platform: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Also in the room are the major enterprise IT stalwarts: IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce.com and SAP. Will one of them find the magic formula to make sense of this sprawl of cloud apps? Or will it be a newcomer who creates one ring to rule them all?

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.