In a recent discussion about growth mindset, we reminisced over the nostalgia of the 2000s. Back then, there were a handful of well-known modern Voltaires and Montesquieus enlightening the Microsoft world with their deep and inspiring technical leadership and creating a loyal following through their cutting-edge knowledge of the latest patch Tuesday repercussions or deprecated features in the next service pack while simultaneously forging ahead into the brave new cloud world. Most of them went on to write books that we eagerly stood in line at Barnes & Noble to gobble up. But as the cloud became mainstream and companies looked to trade their capital expenditures for operating costs, this type of dialogue has fallen by the wayside.

As the Office 365 cloud gained customers, the update cycle was no longer fully in the control of IT administrators and managed services providers. Microsoft pushed the changes in a rolling fashion, and eventually, your organization would receive it, like it or not. This reduced the need for blogs on how the SQL server last updated 10 years ago would react to a new Windows update. Maintainability was increased, but perhaps at the cost of some flexibility.

The SaaS version of Microsoft products also became less configurable, only allowing you to tweak settings related to the most common use cases (I’d mention the Pareto Principle here, but it would really mess up my whole Enlightenment thing, so let’s move on…). That custom attribute that was added three IT administrators ago and not documented but that holds up your entire email system by a thread… sure, those made for great Isaac-Newton-Style online essays uncovering the problem and solution, but really, it never should have been done in the first place. The flexibility of the on-premises products wielded too much power for the average IT organization, causing support headaches and frequent degradation of performance.

Speaking of performance, that was a difficult thing to increase in the on-premises days. It required ordering hardware, redlining legal contracts, and negotiating for rack space in the data center. I worked in business continuity then, helping clients decide if they needed active-active or active-passive redundancy and religiously measuring against Return to Service (RSO) and Recovery Point (RPO) objectives. Integration of third-party applications that didn’t have disaster recovery capabilities poked holes in the extensibility of our continuity planning.

The reason that these philosophical and scientific deep dives are not as popular as they once were is because the audience’s needs have changed. This Age of Enlightenment ended, and organizations were liberated from having to maintain annals of obscure and complex knowledge to maintain, scale, and extend their business systems while sustaining performance.

So where should an aspiring IT philosopher look to succeed in the post-enlightenment era? Past the hardware and software systems to the people systems. The software may have simplified but people certainly have not. How can we creatively and consistently solve problems with a high degree of quality in the least time possible?

In an organization with a hundred knowledge workers using an average labor price of $35/hr, every 15 minutes of productivity equates to a yearly cost savings of ~$220k. The practice of application switching alone costs each information worker 15 minutes per day and leads to higher rates of attrition.[1] Another recent study found that process automation of manual processes improved efficiencies an average of 15%[2]

Consolidating applications, automating repetitive business processes, and using data to provide clear, measurable metrics for corporate goals and progress toward them is combining science with art to help teams and organizations flow. Much like the Industrial Revolution, it’s time to take all of our new knowledge and reason and using that growth mindset, reform to new processes with improved efficiency, faster growth, and clearly measurable results. It’s time for The Cloud Revolution.