Cloud in unexpected places

16:00, Feb 04 2015
IBM farmer
UNEXPECTED PLACES: It would be easy to think that the farming, fishing and forestry industries are immune to shifts in technology, but nimble business thinking and agile technologies are changing the local game.

There's more to cloud services than meets the eye. Cloud expert Ben Kepes explains how the cloud can transform your business.

An ongoing theme in these articles is how cloud technology and business changes are creating massive opportunities and threats for whole segments of the economy. Companies like Uber, Netflix, Xero are applying new technologies and inventing new ways of doing business.

While the technology industry is full of talk about disruption and how 'Technology A' will all of a sudden render 'Technology B' obsolete, sometimes it's harder to see how these changes will impact on industries other than technology.

For us here in New Zealand, there are some obvious industries where a new approach will create some big changes - banking and telecommunications being two examples. But what will cloud technology mean for New Zealand's traditional sectors?

Our history, and much of our GDP, is based around primary production - farming, fishing and forestry. It would be easy to think that those industries are immune to shifts in technology. But just look at some examples of how nimble business thinking and agile technologies are changing the local game.

Silver Fern Farms is a processor, marketer and exporter of lamb, beef, venison and associated products to more than 60 countries. It is a co-operative representing over 16,000 farmer-shareholders and has a 75-year history. You'd be forgiven for thinking that Silver Fern Farms wouldn't be a technology innovator.


But the company is leveraging new technology to add value to its products. Using a vast number of sensors and data entry points, Silver Fern Farms offers high levels of traceability across its entire supply chain - this has the double benefit of allowing the company to make decisions in real time about production and stock, and it also offers customer added value by giving them transparency around the providence of their meat. That translates into higher efficiency and customer value add - all through the smart application of technology.

On a smaller scale, the recent success of Lewis Road Creamery and its chocolate milk is another example of how agile thinking and smart use of technology can help a company grow. Lewis Road Creamery is essentially a marketer, sourcing its product from third parties and distributing it through supermarket chains. What they have done exceptionally well, however, is embrace technology to help them leverage social media as a marketing tool - their mastery of Facebook and Twitter as ways to directly reach consumers has been an exemplar of social marketing.

The success of this approach can be contrasted with the competitive brands who tend towards a far more traditional sales and marketing approach. While the competitors' products sit on supermarket shelves looking forlorn, Lewis Road Creamery's chocolate milk sells out every day and even attracts TradeMe bidding wars.

The challenge for all of us, and especially those working within traditional industries, is to try and conceive of what opportunities are available from nimble business approaches and new technologies. While there is no easy answer, some salient advice for organisations embarking on the journey would be to:

1. Start small - carve off a particular business area or problem and try and apply a new way of working and new technology to that particular area. Small wins will get everyone more comfortable with new approaches.

2. Think about a "skunk works" operation - create a small team that is given the freedom to try new things and experiment, unconstrained by organisation bureaucracy.

3. Partner with other companies preferably smaller, more agile ones. You'll learn much from the process.

New technology and new business approaches provide some real opportunities for New Zealand to grow and compete on the global stage - the sooner we embark on this journey the better.

In the next article we'll discuss the very real concerns that organisations have about security and privacy in the cloud. We'll also provide some clarity around how to keep your organisation safe in the cloud.