What Joni Mitchell might say about cloud computing

A cute white puffy cloud – like the kind you used to draw next to the smiling sun in Kindergarten. But rather than find it on your child’s artwork, these days you’re more likely to see it right smack dab in the middle of an insanely complex technical diagram (the one below is nothing compared to what I saw recently in a client slide deck!). And it’s widely accepted as the universal symbol for all things cloud computing.

Yes, it’s simple. I get it. It’s a cloud. There’s just one little problem. Clouds stink because you can’t see through them. Their mere presence makes the morning commute a little bit longer, and they’re notorious for delaying flights in and out of SFO.

For those in high tech, you’re cursed big time with your own knowledge about cloud computing. You know what happens in that cloud – you can talk all day about leveraging shared capabilities that are self-healing to maximize efficiency and minimize risk, right? Unfortunately for you, the rest of us don’t know that tune. In fact, we’re probably a whole lot more like Dorothy trying to figure out what’s going on behind the curtain.

So, how can you differentiate your message about the cloud (or any technical jargon for that matter)?

First, think about your customers – what’s the number one thing they’re concerned with? What would make them resistant to your idea? Maybe it’s security. For example, why would I (as a CTO) hand over all my precious data to you, and not know exactly what’s happening in that cloud and how it’s being used?

Next, try a dose of Unexpectedness to get your message to be heard – here’s how a recent participant from our Decker Made to Stick program framed her message around the cloud:

When we think of clouds, we typically think of big, white puffy things. The cloud I’m talking about is completely different because you can see through it. It offers the transparency you need to clearly see all the data flowing in and out of the network…

All of a sudden the big benefit of visibility is brought to life because she juxtaposed it right next to our schema of what a cloud is: nebulous, nontransparent and even confusing.

I leave you with a little inspiration and perspective from the great Joni Mitchell and her lyrics to Both Sides Now (my Women in Music professor would be so proud – watch a fabulous performance here). Imagine that your customers view your cloud offering this way…

Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere, I’ve looked at clouds that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall.
I really don’t know clouds at all.

It’s on you to make sure your customers and even non-technical team members know those clouds inside and out. How else are you going to get them to buy off on that cute white fluffy thing?

We’d love to hear some of your great message successes (technical or not) – send them our way!

*UPDATE: Here’s an awesome plain-spoken explanation on cloud computing from Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal (thanks to our buddies at ServiceSource for the tip!).

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