Jon Upton of Confluent explains why the business case for cloud now needs to focus on customer experience and employee experience combined - the experience economy.

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The question I have found myself trying to answer more than any other over the past few years (apart from my daughter asking when the COVID-19 pandemic will finally end) has been “Why move to the cloud? Is it really the IT nirvana people say it is?”

Like many of my colleagues working in technology, I have traditionally responded in rapid fire format with what I always assumed to be the strongest arguments, which typically include — 1) the ability to scale 2) easier to maintain security standards 3) cost savings 4) reduced infrastructure complexity and 4) better IT resource optimization.

These arguments are all valid and fully support a move to the cloud, but they focus primarily on the internal benefits to an organization. A while back, I realized (during a sort of “Grinch Stole Christmas” epiphany) that the greatest benefits of moving to the cloud are not so much the internal IT efficiencies but rather the exceptional value it brings to employees and customers. In my view, this is the most compelling reason why companies should be moving to the cloud – because it’s the cloud which enables you to create truly exceptional and valuable experiences for both employees and customers, which when combined we call the experience economy. The nirvana of experiences!

For me, there are three main reasons why moving to cloud is important for creating this nirvana experience:

1. Your customers are always on and always connected

Companies today must accept and embrace the fact that their customers are always on and always connected – whether they are B2B, B2C, or C2C. We can debate all we want about people spending too much time on their phones and in front of laptops, but the reality is they are connected non-stop, and this will never change. Like the invention of the wheel, once people experienced how it changed their lives, they were never again without it. Such is our destiny with technology, whether we like it or not.

And no industry is immune to this new reality. The local bank branch may close at 5pm but their customers are still banking online at midnight. The shoe factory may close for the weekend, but its customers are still buying shoes online on Sunday. And the local department of motor vehicles may not be open from 12-1pm, but the citizen still wants to complete an online license renewal during a lunch break.

And the pandemic has only made this argument even more compelling. “Analog” customers who were reluctant to embrace online services such as video conferencing and e-commerce were forced into a new world overnight and “analog” businesses who were never planning a move to the digital space were right behind them – willing or unwilling.

This evolution is important. If your customers are always connected and your company is not, they’ll take their business to the company who is available because they are providing the better customer experience. With the technology today, it’s just that easy. In the end, it’s the customer who decides which experience is better, not the company.

This is why cloud is so important. With the hyper-connected customers out there today across multiple channels and countless connected devices, it becomes more compelling than ever that companies leverage the power of the cloud to maintain the high levels of interaction, real-time data collection and interpretation necessary for a unified customer experience.

2. Customer expectations are now real-time

Not only are your customers always on and always connected, but they quite rightfully expect to have access to the data they need, and want, in real time.

Customers are much more tech-savvy today than they were 10 or 15 years ago and, in many cases, they have been inspired by interacting with companies who have adopted a real-time data mindset. Companies like Uber, Netflix, Tesla, Amazon, and Google have clearly demonstrated to customers the power of real-time data – whether it’s connected cars or movies on-demand. Customers are now asking, “Why can’t my package delivery service work more like Uber?” or “Why isn’t my bank more like Amazon?” This is known as the “Uberization” (or disruption) of a company or industry based on a new business model. In Uber’s case, this was the slow-to-evolve taxi market which was turned upside down by a new real-time customer experience addressing a critical market need.

Experiences like these are dramatically changing expectations. Customers now expect to be notified in real-time if there’s a suspected fraudulent claim being made on their account. They expect to know in real-time where their package or food delivery is. And they expect to know in real-time what the temperature of their house is or if their flight or train has been delayed.

With real-time expectations like these, it becomes critical for companies to deliver a flawless real-time customer experience. Leveraging the power of the cloud is the best way to ensure that these massive amounts of data, across so many touchpoints and systems, can truly be understood and shared – all in real-time.

3. Employees are customers too

So often we forget that employees are customers too – and perhaps your most important ones! Richard Branson is well known for saying that your customer experience will never be better than your employee experience. The point he is making is that if you don’t provide the best tools and environment for your employees then how can you expect those employees to provide the best customer experience? It makes complete sense.

So how do you achieve this? You do this by putting the right data into the hands of those employees who are responsible for determining what a customer experience will be. Customer support teams who can’t provide information in real-time on lost baggage, financial transactions or order status, will not be able to provide an optimal customer experience. And consequently, employees who can’t do their jobs effectively by supporting their customers become frustrated, demotivated, and are far more likely to leave their jobs due to low levels of satisfaction.

And the way you deliver that amount of real-time data to your employees most effectively and efficiently is – you guessed it – with the cloud. Once again, getting this amount of data effortlessly and seamlessly into the hands of the right employees is no trivial task, but leveraging the power of cloud computing is the way to do it.

Winning in the experience economy with Cloud

When we talk about the benefits of moving to the cloud, we often focus on the more IT-focused benefits. While these are indeed valid and make a strong case for the cloud, the greatest benefit is, in fact, the value you’ll deliver to your customers and employees, together creating the experience economy.

Who would have thought that moving IT systems to the cloud could help you win customer trust, improve customer experience, and empower employees? Just think about it.

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