Considering the Cloud

March 3, 2015

Convincing your company that the IT department is the best test department for considering the cloud and compete for the delivery of cloud services is critical.

 

shutterstock_231890914Cloud computing will most likely be part of your business model soon, if it isn’t already. Cloud can provide unparalleled scalability, availability, agility and cost savings. What’s more, your customers increasingly expect the on-demand functions that cloud provides.

As beneficial as the cloud can be for most businesses, it can also introduce and possibly cause new complications in the areas of management, monitoring, security and even cost. Internal IT is best-placed to understand how critical business processes and information technology align. Understanding the experience the IT department brings is essential for businesses to avoid problems associated with adoption of cloud-based solutions.

What happens when you take a disparate approach?

We had a client that tried this.  When one business unit after another began to negotiate its own cloud contracts with its own chosen cloud providers, the company ended up with five separate cloud-hosting providers, acting across different business units. Because there is no single tool on the market that gives a consolidated view of cloud services as they operate across the entire business, it became clear that service contracts were specific to individual business units rather than to the company as a whole. Managing partner relationships and internal alignment among business processes and IT systems became extremely difficult. On the data and applications levels, it was difficult to discern where issues were occurring, where inefficiencies and compliance breaches arose and where data security and network access issues might reside.

Despite the unilateral purchase decisions by the business units, everyone began pointing to the IT department as the problem. The real challenge was not simply an IT efficiency argument satisfied by external cloud services but maintaining the alignment of IT and business systems and the dynamic ways that this relationship changes within a company. The internal IT department is the best place, and the only organization, with the knowledge, relationships and incentive to bring these systems into alignment for the entire company.

Our client is now working this out by consolidating everything under the management of its own internal IT department, which is moving toward a standardized monitoring and management platform with visibility into all of the environments. The CIO acknowledges what a great job IT is doing now that it is effectively acting as the broker of cloud services on behalf of the entire business. In particular, IT’s initiative in learning to communicate to the business in business language has been a significant benefit. If this had been the case from the start, the IT department would have been deployed immediately to design an integrated IT strategy supporting the business’s key performance requirements. The various systems options – some built, some bought and some a hybrid of both – could have been designed to be interoperable, with cost, capacity and compliance brought under control. The IT department-as-cloud broker would have been able to plan for systems configuration, enabling data and applications to move among clouds and services if costs or other concerns changed.

shutterstock_215208403An internal IT department is acting with the company’s best interests at heart

Internal IT knows the value of your applications and data, as well as any regulatory or compliance issues that apply. With this mindset, it is uniquely positioned to negotiate and manage Service Level Agreements while keeping in mind important issues such as cost, availability, sustainability and time to market.

With the IT department’s connection to each business unit, it is also a useful resource for not only vetting and choosing cloud providers but for helping direct the business unit to determine whether Software as a Service, Platform as a Service or Infrastructure as a Service is the right model for the business and whether the cloud should be public, private, or a hybrid of the two.

Companies across the board agree. A survey from KPMG and ServiceNow found that 93 percent of respondents agreed that the role of IT is changing from one of infrastructure administration to a driver of enterprise services.

Making it work when considering the cloud

While the IT department already has much of the knowledge necessary to make it viable as an internal cloud services broker, ensuring success requires the business to buy in to the vision. There are several ways that IT leadership can achieve this.

  • First, understand the business’s objectives and be able to articulate clearly to the business in terms it understands how IT projects, activities and technologies underpin the business’s key performance indicators.
  • Keep on top of what’s going on externally as well as internally. If the company relies on Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, for example, the IT department should keep pace with changes in those services and how those changes can impact the business. Cost-to-serve tools such as XOcur.com can help.
  • Determine which metrics are important in ensuring that business goals are met. Common metrics include uptime, availability and the time it takes to close a service ticket. Set up a system to measure those metrics continuously.

Most important, it’s critical to communicate regularly to the business units how IT’s capabilities and metrics support financial goals, sales goals, customer service goals and other goals important to the business. Show business leaders how those metrics have led to lower costs, higher efficiency and improved security and governance. Business unit leaders may be interested in relying on the internal IT department as its cloud broker, but they can only consider it if they know about it. Promoting that idea and your successes is crucial. We hope you can share this story with your business executives early enough to stop your company from going down the same path as our customer did.