On the surface it looks to be a chicken and egg problem. Is cloud driving IT transformation or is IT transformation driving cloud’s growth? The movement to cloud requires a shift in approach for many IT organizations for how to deal with procurement, management, security, etc. In some cases, public cloud offerings are driving IT to change how it delivers services as the business has access to options that don’t require IT’s participation in order to acquire.
The truth is that IT organizations can build and deliver private cloud offerings without changing how they operate internally. Often, these efforts result in less than stellar adoption by the business. Without transformation of the business and operational processes, cloud is just another silo that increases operational overhead and often acts to “prove” the businesses’ point that IT is too slow and difficult for the needs of today’s businesses.
Alternatively, changes in operational and business processes without incorporating cloud computing can still yield significant advantages for the business in lowering operational overhead, reducing risk and, most importantly, fostering a change in how IT is perceived by the business. The movement toward delivering IT as a Service provides certain key advantages:
- It exposes the complexities for delivering a highly-available, resilient and recoverable system to the business. These costs are often masked or hidden making IT look more expensive when compared to other options—especially public cloud—when in fact adding the same services to the competitive options results, many times, in an overall lower total cost of ownership.
- It spells out for the consumer the expectations and ensures appropriate communications. When consumers know what to expect they are less irritated by what they perceive to be an inability to deliver. A good analogy here is waiting at the gate in the airport for a delayed flight. In cases where the airline continually updates the passengers there is less anxiety and aggression toward the airline workers.
- It builds trust. The biggest argument I have heard against moving to a shared services model run by a single IT organization is a lack of trust for that organization to deliver. In business with multiple divisions, there is often a hesitancy to allow a “corporate IT” to build and operate a shared infrastructure due to past failures and a demonstrated inability to deliver on time and in a timely fashion. In businesses where these organizations introduced governance boards and demonstrated small successes based on shifts toward ITaaS, attitudes shifted quickly as the divisional IT groups recognize the benefit of leveraging economies of scale across all divisions.
- It simplifies the life of the operational staff. In businesses where IT is spending 75% of their time putting out fires and rarely being able to take on new projects, shifting to ITaaS has simplified the operational environment, delivered greater reliability, reduced the number of individuals required to participate in troubleshooting and root cause analysis, and shifted time back to focus on the backlog of outstanding requests. In turn, the perception of the business is that these IT organizations became more responsive and relied less on identifying “shadow IT” solutions.
This list is just a fraction of the complete benefits for moving to ITaaS and, interestingly, none of the benefits mentioned the word cloud. Does this mean that cloud isn’t really all that important? No. It just means that the transformation toward ITaaS should be viewed as a higher priority for IT than building or moving to cloud. Indeed, in many respects, cloud success is predicated on this transformation. Certainly, cloud technologies can be applied in the data center to simplify data center operations, but the savings and benefits of this activity quickly plateaus and is short-lived if the IT organization continues to operate in a traditional manner.
If I were an acting CIO/CTO today, my first action would be to develop a business plan to take to management to request investment in transformation. This investment is critical as the funding is above and beyond what most IT budgets today can accommodate. The additional funds would then be used to develop a team—using both internal and external (consulting) resources—to develop a roadmap for the transformation, develop new processes and define how to transition to the new processes. I’d also ensure that this team included financial analysts to help develop accurate cost models to be able to show back to management how their investment will result in reduced operations costs and marketing staff to help advertise the benefits back to the business as well as keep them informed of how these changes will result in a more agile organization to support their needs.
Moving to ITaaS is not as painful as difficult as it may seem. It does require an acceptance that this transition will not occur rapidly and that no one expects to “eat the elephant in one bite”. It’s a very repeatable methodology that most organizations can follow with success. Most importantly, and perhaps most importantly, it requires that management be pragmatic with regard to the cultures and staff that will attempt to ensure status quo and make sure to allay fears and concerns of these individuals through training and support, but be willing to remove venomous individuals who continually act to stand in the way of the transformation.