These new approaches and disruptive go-to-market techniques can get new enterprise software companies to scale at a speed only previously seen by technology aimed at consumers. Just like the last great wave in computing that occurred over two decades ago -- putting companies like SAP (SAP), Microsoft (MSFT), and Oracle in the leadership positions they hold today -- we are on course to see a new set of leading vendors. And along with this, the entire information technology landscape will change.
A value shift across the enterprise IT ecosystem
Many of the questions around what a utility computing world will produce pertain to the future of the IT function and services industries. When applications and infrastructure are delivered over the cloud, where do the business models of system integrators, ecosystem partners, and IT professionals go? With a direct-to-customer model, is there room to be a middle-man?
I believe this is in the category of sustaining innovations for the current system integration firms, but with a lot of change to come. The business model remains very similar, but the execution and actual value provided moves higher up in the stack. Instead of hiring "experts" to do everything – from putting together servers, plugging cables into boxes, all the way to integrating and deploying applications – IT of the future will begin to support higher order problems. In the words of Accenture (ACN) senior executive Kevin Campbell, "[Cloud] provides the opportunity for the IT department to focus on delivering business value." In the past, client budgets often ran out well before the successful integration of multiple systems, and long before a business could begin to truly build interesting value on top of the software and systems that they had in their business.
This leads information technology experts to spend less time implementing and maintaining the basics of an IT strategy, and ultimately adding more value to the 'core' business processes of a company. Instead of working on the necessary but lower utility tasks like managing data, running email servers, and installing CRM software, IT teams and service firms can spend times in high leverage areas of the business. We're seeing this happen across industry and markets with our customers. At Pandora (P), its IT leads are freed up to integrate applications to produce better value, speed, and flexibility for their employees; at Dole, individuals can work from their iPads to pull down critical business information from anywhere; and at Procter & Gamble (PG), their innovation-centric IT group is delivering the cloud to teams across the world, enabling them to work more productively from anywhere, and connect with other groups, securely.
Because of all this change, customers are going to begin to experience a much more dynamic and democratic software environment. Solutions will be forced to update to the latest trends more regularly, and this will drive better business results for all enterprises. Work will be done faster, people will get more value from their technology, and the ecosystem will even grow as a result of the breadth, diversity, and reach of technologies availble.
In a market as continually churning and revolving as information technology, one can easily marvel at how Microsoft and Oracle have maintained leadership for so long. But then again, the world hadn't fully flipped over in the past twenty five years as much as it has today. Change is undeniably here, platforms are rapidly maturing, and now the disruptors of a previous generation must now decide whether they will disrupt themselves in the name of future relevance, or cling to old paradigms as new players emerge.
--Aaron Levie is the CEO and co-founder of Box.net.