Is the way to the European Cloud paved mainly with good intentions?

At the end of last month the EU released its plans for “Unleashing the Potential of Cloud Computing in Europe”. But although the document (s) – just like EU commissioner Kroes in this video – do a good job describing in non-technical terms what cloud is and why Europe should care about having a competitive cloud position, it kind of stops there.

Even though it defines three key actions – around Standards, Terms and Public Sector taking a lead role – most described actions consist of softer items such as “promoting trust by coordinating with stakeholders”, “identifying best practices”, ”promoting partnerships” and “investigating how to make use of other available instruments”. Now of course European cloud computing can benefit from funding reserved for other EU initiatives such as the Connecting Europe Facility and from side initiatives such as the “Opinion on Cloud Computing” published by the Article 29 working party that gives privacy-related contracting guidance, but in general the recent published plan seems to be more about what could and should be, than about what is or will be.

Meanwhile, both regular and social media seem to be increasingly negative regarding the progress that Europe is making. With the North American continent clearly being the biggest cloud geo and ASIAPAC – also thanks to its many emerging economies – claiming the position of fastest growing cloud geo, it only leaves less desirable labels – such as slowest or most fragmented – for describing the state of cloud activities in Europe.

Continuing to look at why things are harder and slower in Europe will just further reinforce negative sentiments, better to focus on European examples that are showing success. And in “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” the brothers Dan and Chip Heath offer an engaging recipe for doing just that. In their book they describe how by identifying “Bright Spots” (small pockets of positive exceptions) potential future success scenarios can be discovered. Next, they encourage promoting very specific actions instead of giving broad directions. For example: Instead of asking people to eat healthier (too vague, too hard), they suggest healthcare activists promote a specific action such as “buying skimmed instead of full fat milk” (simpler, easier, more actionable, more effective).

So in Europe, instead of pushing cloud as a concept (too vague, too hard), why not focus on identifying a few very specific and very simple scenarios including their specific benefits. Next Europe can concentrate on removing any (legal, fiscal, economic, cultural) barriers to these specific scenarios and promote these few clearly and broadly. And in doing so best to follow the Heath brothers advice to promote this both on a rational and on an emotional level (or as the brothers put it eloquently: both “Direct the Rider and Motivate the Elephant” ).

PS What potential European cloud Bright Spots would you suggest (using the comment field on this blog)?

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