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RSR Uncharted: Retailers See Cloud As A ‘Go Faster’ Button – But How?


In RSR’s April 2019 benchmark on the state of cloud computing, we highlighted our top finding right at the beginning of the report: “The most frequently cited forces behind cloud computing in retail are all about pushing the ‘go faster’ button. Cloud is retailers’ real attempt to move beyond ‘retail time’ to consumer time.” That result was certainly not what we expected, and it was such a big “aha!” for us that we put it into the title of the report.

A 2nd and no less surprising revelation from the study was that the IT department sees itself as the top beneficiary of a move to the cloud. We observed that, “Year-after-year of complaints about the ever-growing IT backlog has taken a toll. From their responses, it appears that the IT groups are basically exhausted and more than happy to turn responsibility for speed and agility over to others… A whopping 98% of IT respondents report they can make the best use of cloud!”

That's really interesting! And it was further underlined when we asked both IT’ers and non-IT’ers to choose the type of cloud that they are most interested in (‘software-as-a-service’, ‘infrastructure-as-a-service’, ‘recovery-as-a-service’, etc.). While non-IT’ers equally liked ‘infrastructure-as-a-service’ (computer infrastructure on an outsourced basis) and ‘software-as-a-service’ (fully functional web-based applications delivered on demand), IT’ers most favored ‘platform-as-a-service’ (infrastructure that includes all the building blocks used for development of cloud based solutions).

These findings led my fellow author Paula Rosenblum and I to conclude that IT’ers see the cloud as a new and better way to develop and deliver applications. In other words (as Herman’s Hermits sang in their 1965 recording of “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”), “second verse, same as the first” – only this time, with new tools that can help them blow though the ever-growing backlog and finally satisfy the business’s insatiable appetite for more, more, more.

In fact, that’s exactly what retail IT’ers are thinking. Figure 1 highlights what IT’ers mean by ‘pushing the go-faster button’.

Figure 1 : What ‘Go Faster’ Means

Source: RSR Research, April 2019

As we noted in the April 2019 report, “These responses are nothing short of stunning. It tells us that IT is both desperate for help, and also has the more significant vision for what cloud can do for the company.”

But… How?

Granting that retail IT’ers want the best and latest tools to develop and deliver functionality to the business faster, the question remains, “how do you propose to do that?”. To get an answer to that question, we had to dig back into the results of RSR’s February 2018 benchmark entitled IT Spending In Retail 2018 . In that study, we asked retailers to identify how their IT spending will change in the next three years. Here’s what they told us:

Figure 2: Infrastructure Spending Plans

Source: RSR Research, February 2018

Take a look at three datapoints in particular: “’Hybrid’ or ‘multi-Cloud’ application delivery”, “micro-services based apps”, and “Application Program Interfaces (API) ‘layer’”. When it comes to using the cloud to develop new functionality faster, these three technologies are inextricably linked. In fact, it would be very difficult to deliver new functionality on top of “legacy” applications in a hybrid (cloud + on-premise) way without using APIs, and companies cannot take advantage of open-source software functionality delivered via public clouds without also embracing “micro-services”.

What we can glean from this is that it is still early days for many retailers when it comes to taking advantage of what cloud computing can offer. While it’s understandable that internal IT departments are excited that cloud computing will act like a “go faster” button and help them to catch up with the increasing demands of the business, cloud computing won’t magically accomplish that goal. A better understanding of the capabilities and limitations of cloud computing is needed.

Read The Full Report

RSR’s April 2019 benchmark study on the state of cloud computing in retail, Cloud Computing In Retail: Pushing The ‘Go Faster’ Button, makes a series of recommendations for how retailers can get beyond the hyperbole associated with cloud computing, and start down the path of cloud enablement. Read the report!


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Articles & Opinions July 16, 2019
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