You know it. I know you know it. Cloud is here, it’s real, it’s growing, and your business is using it. Sure it’s overhyped and in many circles misunderstood. But it’s happening, it’s compelling and there is no turning back.
Your internal customers and business unit heads have heard about it, and in probably more cases than you want to think about, they are already using it. We may call them rogue users or “shadow IT,” but they are out there, and every day there are more and more of them, placing different applications and workloads in some service provider’s cloud.
Why is this happening? The common answers are cost savings and shifting from capex to opex economics. While that’s true, I’d argue the most significant reason is the business velocity cloud enables. The ability to rapidly test and launch new business concepts often more quickly than we could consider the IT requirements traditionally — never mind turn up even a prototype application — is the primary driver. So it’s economically compelling, it empowers the business user to run the business without the need for cumbersome IT processes, and it seems your competitors are doing it. These are three good reasons why it’s imperative for your business to be able to operate in “cloud time” as well.
CIO – The Cloud Time Thought Leader
So what’s a CIO to do about this cloud phenomenon? It’s time to embrace it and lead the charge. The CIO is well positioned to lead this cloud transformation, and to be relevant in the organization’s move to cloud. Some areas where you can be a thought leader and change agent include:
- Defining requirements for Cloud Service Providers – What services does the business need? What are the technical requirements? Business compliance considerations? Desired user experience? What is your current cost structure as a baseline? What are your current cycle times?
- Conducting a workload analysis – What workloads or application types in your business are best suited to cloud, and then what types of clouds are best for each of those? IaaS for variable demand apps? PaaS for development? SaaS for common finished apps? How do you tie these together where needed?
- Mobility support – What is your strategy for mobilization of your business processes to support your end customers or supply chain, and how does the cloud support that as a mobility enabler? What’s your model for mobile security in the cloud?
- Linkage to your legacy – despite the hype, legacy systems and applications are not disappearing anytime soon, so how will some of these new cloud-based applications interface or coexist with the legacy base? Will you leverage hybrid models, develop APIs, or carve out only new apps without legacy touch points?
Driving the Culture Shift – The CIO at the Wheel
CIOs are well positioned to both embrace the cloud for their business, and also to bring a pragmatic approach to cloud adoption overall. I would dare say it’s the CIO’s responsibility to provide an IT-endorsed cloud strategy. Many CIOs have taken this progressive approach and are well down the path of cloud adoption. Most are somewhere between studying their cloud options, developing a cloud strategy, and building a private cloud.
No matter where you and your organization may fall on this spectrum, successful leaders are driving a full-blown culture shift within their IT teams, and in much of the larger business. Some suggestions for making that journey with your business include the following:
- Squash the ostriches: Help your teams to understand what’s happening and embrace it. The former world of traditional IT will not return, and that’s ok. The new world is exciting and presents plenty of opportunities to the technically and business savvy.
- Develop your strategy: Consider selecting a key partner or two for each major category of cloud service that’s critical to your business needs. You can demonstrate how progressive your effort is to your internal customers when you endorse cloud providers for different use cases or workloads, all of which address your critical security requirements, performance criteria, and compliance.
- Build new skills: While there is no shortage of technical skills required for cloud success, partnering and sourcing skills are something key to success in the cloud world. Tomorrow’s future IT leaders will work across company lines and manage relationships — likely with several cloud suppliers — marrying their services with your own organic capabilities all to serve your joint customers. IT professionals successful in that type of collaboration will be in great demand and will thrive.
Most importantly, take a leadership role in the transformation. Cloud is here, it’s real, it’s growing, and your business is using it. Driving the firm to a model for success in a cloud world — where the pursuit of economic benefit, business agility, dynamic scaling, and enterprise grade performance is a challenge – is something every business will face. Tomorrow’s leaders will be those who embrace that challenge and lead their firms to success in the cloud.