New technologies, like cloud computing, tend to go through 3 broad generations.
During the first generation, which occurs after a technology is first commercialized, the impacts are mostly efficiency gains. The new technology makes things cheaper, easier and/or faster.
A good example of a first generation cloud product is Amazon's Web Services, which is still heavily marketed as a way to reduce IT costs and increase the speed and ease of deployment.
During the second generation, people and businesses have adapted enough to the new technology to create new ways of doing business as well as new business forms and structures.
Based on our research, we think cloud computing has entered the 2nd generation. We also found 4 types of businesses - we call them faces or personas - that illustrate some of the new ways, forms and structures that cloud computing is enabling.
Plug-in Players: Small businesses will increasingly adapt to the cloud by taking advantage of specialized services that can be seamlessly integrated into back-office operations. Instead of spending time and effort on the nuts-and-bolts of finance, marketing and human resources, cloud-adapted small businesses will plug into cloud-based providers who deliver comprehensive, tailored solutions, giving small business operators the ability to focus on mission-critical areas of business.
Hives: Cloud-adapted small businesses will increasingly be made up of individuals who share talent to form a team. These businesses will operate virtually, with employees working in different locations, and staffing levels will be increasingly flexible, rising and falling to meet project needs. For example, independent contractors will use virtual spaces to connect and market themselves. On Main Street, small manufacturers and producers may share a commercial facility.
Head-to-Headers: A growing number of cloud-adapted small businesses will compete head-to-head with major firms, using the growing number of platforms and plug-in services to reach markets once only accessible to large corporations. This is already being seen with platforms such as AirBnB, which provide individuals with the ability to reach a mass market through community infrastructure.
Portfolioists : Successful cloud-adapted freelancers will bring together multiple income streams to create a career portfolio. These largely will be people who start with a passion, or specific skill, and are motivated primarily by the desire to live and work according to their values, passions, and convictions. They will increasingly build personal empires in the cloud, finding previously unseen opportunities for revenue generation.
Small Business Success in the Cloud is the first in a series of reports, presentations and videos - called Dispatches from the New Economy - Intuit will be releasing in the coming months.
The Dispatches are based on a comprehensive, year long project exploring the ways social, economic,demographic and technology shifts will shape the future of small business success. Emergent Research (that's us) partnered with Intuit on this work.
We're excited by the findings of this work will be covering the Dispatches in detail.