The cloud has given business units within the enterprise a chance to do an end-run around IT when they need quick resources to complete a given task.
The CIO is rightly concerned about this, given the security and governance issues that such free-wheeling activity promotes. But in the front office, the end results of greater productivity and lower costs are hard to resist, particularly once the appropriate agreements are struck with cloud providers that enable broad protection and availability measures for data placed on third-party infrastructure.
It stands to reason, then, that many providers are positioning their services away from the technical elements of the enterprise and more toward the people who actually stand to benefit – the line-of-business managers who are under increasing pressure to get the job done no matter what. This is why we are seeing the rise of cloud services tailored toward key functions, such as marketing, as opposed to generic server and storage resources.
And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of these clouds are offering higher levels of service than standard data center infrastructure, particularly when it comes to empowering workers for emerging mobile and collaborative environments. The Oracle Marketing Cloud, for instance, has just been outfitted with the ID Graph, Rapid Retargeter and AppCloud Connect modules designed to equip marketing teams with the most up-to-data, relevant data possible and identify cross-channel opportunities and other hidden aspects of increasingly massive data stores. It also promises to refocus current group- and segment-based marketing strategies to the individual, and then target messaging across a variety of client devices.
As well, Adobe has incorporated a new algorithmic engine and numerous core services to its Marketing Cloud designed to integrate programmatic ad purchasing and massive data collection and analysis under a common, easily deployable, architecture. Rather than focus on simple display ad bidding and other disparate functions, Adobe wants to incorporate targeting, data transparency, pricing and other functions to enable advanced messaging and audience development. The system also fosters a higher level of joint marketing capability, allowing data to be shared across multiple points to integrate the strategies of different business units or even different companies, such as travel agencies, hotels, airlines and car rental agencies.
Of course, organizations born and bred in the cloud are not lost on the opportunities presented by function-specific clouds either. Salesforce has been rapidly building out its Marketing Cloud with predictive analysis and intelligent applications designed to give marketing professionals the information they need, not just what they ask for. The platform sports an Intelligent Process feature that enables case assignment based on worker history and skill sets, while the new Workload Management tool ensures an even spread among available manpower.
By taking full control of the marketing process, including the underlying infrastructure, marketing executives will find that their leadership positions within their organizations will be greatly enhanced, but only if technology is matched with proper structural reorganization and a change in strategic thinking, says Oracle’s Kevin Akeroyd. Customer-centric marketing has existed long before the cloud, but only with advanced scale-out architectures can it be applied to the business process in a meaningful way. And the simple fact is that traditional data center architectures cannot perform at the level required by today’s agile enterprise because the volume of data needed to support these initiatives is too great.
All of this leads to a radically different working environment than exists today, one in which decisions are made and budgets assigned to achieve key business goals rather than to build complex infrastructure in support of a multi-faceted digital environment.
The real change taking place in the cloud is not structural or technological, but cultural in that it empowers business to achieve objectives based on need, not capabilities. As the era unfolds, the only limitation will be human imagination.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.