As I embarked on this year’s Cloud Expo, I did so with a feeling of anticipation – well, actually, a brief feeling of fury, following my painful two-hour journey to the ExCel (from within London, yeah.. nice).

Anyway, once I eventually arrived, I was greeted with the usual buzz of a huge industry trade show. Tech talks, competitions and even IoT and sensor-enabled Lego race-cars (this was great, thank you Juniper Networks!) were enticing visitors to stands full of eager vendors.  

While I could easily have spent days racing high-tech cars and trying to win Amazon Alexas, weirdly, that wasn’t the goal of the trip. On to listening to smarter people than me. So what did I learn?

1. Digital must be considered an adjective – not a noun

As Tom Read, chief digital and information officer, at the Ministry of Justice remarked in his keynote, we must ensure that digital as a means of delivery runs true throughout an entire organisation. “If government can do cloud, anyone can,” he said. Delivering an impassioned call to CIOs concerned about the future, he told them to “stop worrying about infrastructure. It's the back end - nobody cares about it.” His advice was to focus on end-user service delivery by understanding your end-users, and relying on hyper-scale providers like AWS and Azure for cloud hosting.

2. Technology is progressing faster than skills

Lee James, CTO at Rackspace claimed a lack of skills across the IT industry has resulted in a negative impact on cloud deployments – with the vendor even launching its own Open Cloud Academy to help upskill customers. Indeed a recent study between the company and LSE also found that four in ten (42 per cent) IT decision makers believe a lack of skills is causing a lag in their organisation’s ability to deploy cloud platforms.

3. No-one wants vendor ‘lock-in’

This technically isn’t new. Nobody ever wanted vendor lock-in – but they accepted it. Now, in today’s uncertain economic climate, it simply isn’t an option for customers. Russell Reeder, president and CEO of OVH US, even referred to vendor lock-in as one of the “biggest risks to the industry” as the bigger players are slower to react to changing customer requirements. Customers need flexibility. They need portability. If vendors can’t ensure their solution will become more cost-effective, along with the commodisation of IT, they simply won’t survive.

4. Customers (still) tell the best stories 

We wouldn’t be at Cloud Expo if we didn’t want to hear about cloud solutions. But hearing customers describe how they’ve transformed their organisations is still the most effective selling point. From the Ministry of Justice, to the National Theatre and even DFS, the cloud is enabling businesses of all sizes to transform. But it’s the impact of this transformation that is always most fascinating – and the vendors that tell these stories most effectively will be the winners at this year’s show.