Melbourne is a fashionable city.
Walking to work of a morning I pass people who use clothes to project their identity – from pocket squares, to three piece suits, to loafers (sans socks) and even the odd bowler hat. It’s something that I didn’t really come across in Sydney, though you could argue that maybe I didn’t move in the right circles. At any rate, when you are exposed to something for long enough, it starts to rub off on you (bear with me, this will turn to a technical discussion shortly). Although I don’t really need a nice suit for work, I’ve been looking into getting one. There are some great tailors here who offer fully bespoke offerings (at a price), some other organisations who will provide a “made to measure” offering, taking your dimensions before getting a suit made through cheaper labour overseas, and finally a good range off “off the rack” suits as well.
Each of these institutions has a particular market that they target, and each of them brings a different value proposition when compared with the other options. While there is some overlap, for the most part there is no competition between the different approaches. Don’t get me wrong, within each style there are a number of companies competing for customers – but that is because each of these organisations bring a similar value proposition. In looking at this, it struck me that this is very similar to what happens with providers who build out their own cloud offerings. Some are doing highly repeatable, low cost options. Others build an environment manually each and every time, creating a truly custom offering for their clients. Then there are those in between, who provide a certain level of customisation from within a catalog of standard offerings.
So, which approach is the right one?
Let me answer as a provider first. The answer depends on your market. If you have an existing customer base that you want to market to, then build your offering around that. If you don’t, then identify your market before you start building a cloud. In each and every case, the most important thing you can do is build your offering around your differentiation. If you’re big enough, then there is no reason that you can’t provide more than one offering style. The truly tricky part is to find a level of competitive advantage within your market, because if you are unable to do so, then every opportunity you work on will come down to price.
As a customer, it’s key to understand what differentiates any of the services you are considering. Do you have specific security requirements? Do you need a more agile environment? Do you require self service? If you could boil down what your business is trying to achieve by moving to an external cloud provider, then what would that sentence say? Could you deliver that outcome by building something internal? It may well be that you need to work with a number of different providers to achieve the outcome that you are looking to achieve, utilising a hybrid offering so that you can get different needs served by different providers.
I still haven’t bought a suit, but when I do I will probably end up going with something made to measure – because I want the experience of a suit that is made to fit me, but without the exorbitant price tag of a bespoke suit which my salary simply doesn’t justify. Which suit would you buy?