Don’t Guess – Simulate! Understanding User Preferences for Cloud Services

With cloud computing, users are able to conveniently access computing resources as pay-per-use services. For IT vendors, cloud computing elicits a need for more thoroughly defined IT services with clearly specified delivery and pricing models. However, designing high-utility cloud services has proven to be challenging given the large number of design decisions and the uncertainty about user preferences in immature markets. More advanced requirements engineering methods are needed for the customer-oriented design of cloud services, that integrate market research techniques to test customer acceptance of new cloud service designs.

Lay summary

The purpose of this project is to improve our understanding of user preferences for cloud services in order to support their user-oriented design. More precisely, we aim to develop and validate a systematic approach for eliciting and analysing customer preferences for cloud services and simulating market reaction to variations in cloud service design. Our approach builds on adaptive choice-based conjoint analysis, which is a marketing research technique to analyze multi-dimensional user preferences. In the context of cloud services, it allows to measure the trade-offs between the functional and non-functional properties as well as economic and vendor-related aspects. The results of our research will comprise (1) a method component supporting requirements engineering for cloud services; and (2) two empirical studies of consumer preferences for two distinct types of cloud services.

The potential contribution of this research is three-fold:

From a theoretical perspective, this research addresses the lack of techniques and methods for analysing and prioritising user requirements for cloud services. By designing and validating a method component which adapts proven market research techniques to cloud services design, we will contribute to enhancing the existing requirements engineering methods.

From a practical perspective, the empirical studies will allow us to understand the factors in designing cloud services that are most influential on users’ choice or willingness-to-pay. They will help cloud service providers in designing high-utility cloud services.

From a societal and economic perspective, cloud infrastructures and services are expanding the scope of digital services in many domains, such as healthcare, energy or city services. Since the design of high-utility cloud services will be a key challenge in the upcoming years, our project results will be relevant to the society and industry at large.

Swiss National Science Foundation (FNS)


24 months (November 2015 – October 2017)

Christine Legner, Dana Naous, Andrea Giessmann (former member)