Last week, I participated in Cloudbeat 2012. I was surprised by the similarities between mobile and “the cloud.”  Three years ago, there were debates about mobile adoption and cloud adoption. Today, the world has accepted mobile and cloud services as critical components of next-generation networks. The theme of Cloudbeat 2012 was “Real cases of revolutionary cloud adoption.” In the last quarter, I’ve seen the dialogue shift from “What technology or service is being deployed?” to “How are businesses using these technologies and services to change the business?”

The original use cases for cloud computing focused on reducing computing costs and providing on-demand storage and processing capabilities. Many early examples of cloud adoption focused on making the back office run more efficiently. Ken Stineman, the Senior Director of Enterprise Architecture and Security at Genomic Health, discussed on stage how his company used cloud services to support business processes that weren’t strategic to the company. This enabled Genomic Health to focus its internal resources on delivering services — such as better analysis of cancer patient’s data — that brought a competitive advantage. This is a great example of how companies have embraced cloud services today.

However, cloud services have the potential to deliver more than cost savings and business process efficiencies. Businesses can use cloud services to deliver new capabilities and experiences. Virgin America’s Elevate program provides one example of how the cloud can be used to deliver competitive advantage. At Cloudbeat, I had the opportunity to interview Brett Hannath, Director of Marketing at Tibco’s Loyalty Lab. On stage we discussed how Virgin America used cloud services to improve its loyalty program. A video of our fireside chat titled “Elevating Loyalty In The Cloud” can be found here.

While Mr. Stineman spoke of how cloud can be used for the back office, Virgin wanted to create a different loyalty experience that used cloud to provide real-time dynamic pricing and calculation for award travel. It used the cloud to connect to partners to support redemption of its loyalty points for rewards such as car rentals and hotel stays. In the future, it will use the cloud to improve the flight experience by linking to preference data from the loyalty program. Virgin America provides just one example of how cloud services can be used to create competitive differentiation by improving how we interact with our customers and partners. There are numerous opportunities where cloud services can be used to improve customer care, information sharing, and sales transactions.

How will your firm use the cloud for competitive differentiation?

 

Maribel Lopez is the CEO and mobile market strategist for Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm that specializes in communications technologies with a heavy emphasis on the disruptive nature of mobile technologies. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.