The first phase of cloud deployment often focuses on cost cutting. Businesses are always interested in finding ways to achieve the same business goals faster and less expensively. As efficiencies improve, however, new opportunities reveal themselves \u2013 not only to do the same things better but to perform entirely new tasks altogether.\nThis is what makes the cloud powerful enough to be considered an incubator of new ideas, or even new business models.\nWhy are these opportunities opening up now? First, the cloud is compatible with nearly everything. It\u2019s basically the \u201cSwitzerland\u201d of IT platforms. If you want to offer a new service, using the cloud as the delivery platform makes your offering immediately interoperable with would-be customers using any variety of devices, operating systems, and networks. When access to almost anyone and everyone has opened up, business possibilities explode. Ideas once stymied by legacy equipment and interoperability and costly integration barriers are unleashed.\nThat means smaller businesses can take on bigger competitors by having instant access to a scalable, oft-refreshed infrastructure of the same caliber as large enterprises. The common cloud platform levels the competitive playing field.\nIn addition, new collaboration capabilities become possible as spontaneous connections take place, uniting folks who might have previously been segmented because of corporate hierarchy or geography. Teams of executives, employees, contractors, partners and others across can come together informally in the cloud using file sharing, conferencing, and other collaboration tools to create the digital version of the back-of-a-napkin idea and to co-design, brainstorm, demonstrate and test.\nAdd in the cloud\u2019s scalable processing and storage capabilities, and it becomes possible to crunch huge amounts of demographic and other data \u2013 a level of data mining and analysis that had previously been cost-prohibitive. You can now glean information about your customers that stimulates ideas about new or personalized services that generate new revenue streams or help retain customers. Because the pricing model is usage-based, you don\u2019t have to overinvest in infrastructure to perform these analyses, only to let processing cycles sit idle until the next big job.\nTo consider the cloud as an incubator that can help you realize your business potential, ask yourself a few questions to help get the creative juices flowing:\n1)\u00a0\u00a0 What would I love to do to grow our business (or department or business unit) if money were no object?\n2)\u00a0\u00a0 What data about my customers, sponsors, competitors, or others would be pivotal to coming up with new business ideas if only I could access it?\n3)\u00a0\u00a0 Do I have any legacy IT infrastructure that\u2019s holding me back because it needs to depreciate before I can reinvest?\nViewing the cloud as an interoperable and relatively low-cost IT platform frees you to dream big. If you\u2019re succeeding at saving some money with your cloud initiatives, it\u2019s time to start thinking bigger.