Polymaths see the bigger picture

Polymaths see the bigger picture

Summary: To really take advantage of cloud for business transformation, you have to be what Vinnie Mirchandani calls a 'new polymath', joining up the dots between cloud computing, mobility, social networking and other aspects of the Web

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One of my big themes these days is to look at the huge opportunities available to businesses that transform their operations, cost base or market reach through their use of the cloud. So I'm looking forward to meeting up this week with my Enterprise Irregulars colleague Vinnie Mirchandani, whose new book is all about a strategy that's fundamental to the success of these initiatives — as I'll explain in a moment.

Vinnie will be in London this Thursday as part of a European tour to promote The New Polymath: Profiles in Compound-Technology Innovations, which came out last month and has already been reviewed and discussed by several ZDNet bloggers, including Jason Hiner and Larry Dignan, Brian Sommer, Chris Jablonski and Joe McKendrick (twice). In fact, the ZD blog network gets a mention in the book and several of us have had review copies.

A polymath is someone whose talents and knowledge span many disciplines, and Vinnie's book is about leaders and enterprises who have connected up multiple strands to create innovations and business opportunities. This links up to the message I've been putting across to cloud vendors and buyers, most recently at a SaaS seminar at UK industry group Intellect last Thursday.

Too many people look at cloud merely in terms of the underlying technology of virtualization and IT automation. Although there are some very useful incremental improvements available there, what I've been spelling out in my pitches is that this very narrow view misses out the bigger picture of global, real-time connectivity that provides the defining context for cloud computing. Disruptive, game-changing business innovation becomes possible when you start to join up the dots and take advantage of the interplay between cloud computing with mobility, social networking and other aspects of the Web. Thus, to really take advantage of cloud for business transformation, you have to be what Vinnie Mirchandani calls a 'new polymath', harnessing multiple technology strands.

The cloud is at its most transformative in its ability to collapse distance and, through automation, bring all kinds of resources into play on demand. One of my favorite examples is LiveOps, which uses web connectivity and automated reputation systems to manage thousands of call center agents who work ad hoc and on-demand from their homes across the United States and beyond. This kind of crowdsourcing of professional labor will revolutionize the cost base for all kinds of business activities, including professional activities such as accounting and bookkeeping. One of the examples in the book is Corefino Services, which uses the Web as a platform for providing outsourced accounting services to businesses alongside SaaS accounting software. One sentence from the book not only typifies the author's relaxed yet compelling writing style but also captures the essence of the transformation the cloud is enabling:

"Corefino is a new breed of service provider — wait, is it a service provider? Increasingly, the lines between software, services, and networks are blurring — it's about results."

This is an example of the insight that makes me look forward so much to welcoming Vinnie to Thursday's event (22 July), hosted by EuroCloud UK [of which I'm chair: see disclosure], where he'll be doing a short presentation and a book drawing, with plenty of opportunity to chat one-on-one with those attending. We'll have some people there from one or two organisations cited in the book, including FinancialForce.com, which is supporting the event financially. ZDNet blogger Joe McKendrick is planning to attend, and we'd be glad to see any ZDNet readers from the enterprise IT world. Please register online if you'd like to be there — add the tag #zd to your job title when you register and if you're in the first six I'll authorize a complementary registration.

Topics: Emerging Tech, Banking, Browser, Cloud, Enterprise Software

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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5 comments
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  • Another one out of the ballpark for Phil Wainewright.

    So true.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
  • RE: Polymaths see the bigger picture

    agreed :)
    cybursoft
  • Cloud doesn't solve all problems

    While the cloud may preserve your data at the state it was in at the beginning of a disaster, it may be absolutely useless if you lose connectivity to it.

    Reliable connectivity is the key. If your business can't tolerate drops in connectivity, the cloud is not for you. Drops can be caused by power outages in the communications network. Drops can be caused by software and installation attacks. Drops can be caused by electromagnetic interference, especially in wireless networks.

    Of course, if you have a system that runs in both distributed and locally autonomous modes, you gain the benefit of the cloud, but at an added cost, and decreased security.
    Dr_Zinj
  • Cloud is part of today's new tool kit

    Sounds an interesting book. <br><br>However the examples you chose are a little surprising as IT is a rapidly evolving discipline, and the cutting edge of IT long a source of competitive advantage. So I'm struggling with seeing the use of crowdsourcing as a polymath activity. Or indeed any surprise with adding services to a strict SaaS offering (given that SaaS is fundamentally an outsourcing activity). <br><br>In these cases, the surprise is only where people have become overly attached to a given set of definitions. Perhaps a better way to put this is that the 'polymath' for these examples is she/he who is willing to look at piece parts of technology on the shelf today and mix and match rather than accept the mainstream offering. <br><br>In this spirit I particularly enjoyed your characterization of "cloud" as cloud is being 'at its most transformative in its ability to collapse distance and, through automation, bring all kinds of resources into play on demand.' This is a much clearer view than any of the technical definitions on offer.<br><br>Cheers, Michael Harries<br>Citrix Labs and <a href="http://technoist.com" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://technoist.com" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://technoist.com" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://technoist.com</a></a></a>
    technoist
  • Pet Fashion

    <a href="http://www.bglen-fan.net/">???????????????</a> thanks. get you on the leaders board. z d n e t t h a n k Im not sure i come to an agreement with you on every level, howevor it absolutely was a good posting, many thanks for taking the time to put up your ideas.
    monikanchan