The cloud is not just reshaping how companies provision technology; it's changing customers' experience. A technology platform that is easily scalable for and accessible to the billions of connected devices customers use — PCs, smartphones, tablets, TVs, cars, jet engines, and more — has allowed cloud-services companies to completely reinvent experiences. No one was using black-car drivers' idle time to disrupt the taxi industry on a mass scale prior to Uber. Millions of customers, both consumers and business clients, have flocked to these cloud services, believing these are better experiences. The proof? The cloud computing elder Amazon is a perennial leader in Forrester's Customer Experience Index and has a market capitalization of more than $200 billion. So, the question you're probably asking is, "Does this mean that we need to build our customer interaction points in the cloud?"

Forrester does believe that businesses utilizing cloud services can improve their customer experience. Amazon Web Services (AWS), for example, provides key components that ensure the smooth running of popular services like Airbnb and Netflix. Ultimately, though, customer experience (CX) teams hoping to keep pace with these disruptive cloud-services companies actually need organizations that operate like these upstarts. In our recent report, "Customer Experience Organizations Must Change To Benefit From The Cloud," we lay out four attributes companies must have to disrupt their own experiences using the cloud:

  1. Strong digital psychology in the workforce. The cloud gives companies easy-to-access computing power and development components, allowing them to build unique experiences. But to really take advantage of this, CX leaders need employees who understand these digital tools and have the creativity to use them to drive real innovation around customers' experiences. For example, as Wal-Mart builds its eCommerce business, it has acquired companies like OneOps, a cloud infrastructure company, and Tasty Labs, a company that created online marketplaces.
  2. Employees equipped to take action. The workforce that can help build these new experiences needs the latitude to intelligently react to issues they see. Forrester has argued there are three capabilities employees need to take action: the ability to access and use information, the ability to interact with others as needed, and the ability to change context or location. For instance, General Electric Aviation plans to use Salesforce Chatter Communities as a space for its engineers to collaborate with airline maintenance staff
  3. Tools to enable invention and experimentation. Free access to information and expertise should accompany policies that allow employees to continuously create and test features and products that address clients' emerging needs. CX leaders must ensure that this process is collaborative with partners and customers, as insights and good ideas can come from anywhere. And it also means making corporate assets, like data, available to partners to let them create new experiences: Google technology, including Maps and Places, is increasingly being incorporated in cars from manufacturers like Hyundai.   
  4. Few impediments to rapid iteration. As employees, partners, and customers collaborate on new innovations, businesses must allow these groups to build and test solutions that succeed or fail rapidly. Google famously demonstrated this in 2010 when it terminated Google Wave, a service it touted as being able to revolutionize collaboration, after just 15 months in the market.

We believe these qualities will define successful companies in the post-PC digital era. But we believe the implications of this type of operating model — such as reduced need for conglomerates and less risk aversion among executives at publicly traded companies — will trip up business leaders and legislators for the foreseeable future. What are your thoughts? Is your business able to compete with these disruptive cloud companies? How is your company exhibiting these qualities?