The mad rush to adopt cloud technology is no secret. In fact, the tsunami of organizations that are racing to implement these solutions clearly reflects the need to have the best new “it” in IT. As TJ McCue wrote, “Instead of a slow-moving, fluffy white cloud image, the cloud computing industry should use a tornado – that might be a better way to visualize how fast cloud computing is growing today.” In fact, the global market for cloud-computing equipment is predicted to reach almost $80 billion by 2018.
The exceptional benefits and transformative power of the cloud are clear – efficiency, productivity, scalability, storage capacity, and better use of analytics, just to name a few. But, as with all revolutionary solutions, the urgency among market leaders to introduce greater agility into their organizations, to “be fast and be first,” can lead to real buyer’s remorse over designing and deploying precisely the wrong set of cloud solutions for their organizations.
Eschewing a tailored approach and instead diving into a technology that is certainly not one-size-fits-all can, in the end, create difficulties and hamper progress. When it comes to the complex cloud purchase and implementation today, the modern CIO needs to plan – to go a bit slower, if you will – in order to ultimately move faster.
You Don’t Always Need what you Want
Given all the hype surrounding cloud solutions, CIO expectations are often wide-ranging. Before delving into the many bells and whistles associated with buying cloud technology, CIOs must carefully chart their course and ask themselves some fundamental questions before making purchasing commitments.
First, it is essential for the enterprise to define its goals in relation to cloud – what does it want out of this solution and when do those goals need to come to fruition?
Second, the CIO needs to adopt a clear and sober realism in relation to those goals and decide what is actually achievable. Expectations must be kept firmly rooted in the bedrock of reality. Cloud, while revolutionary, will never be a silver bullet for all IT obstacles. As such, it needs to be considered not as a panacea, but as part of a larger enterprise strategy to take companies to the next level.
Third, measurement is a vital part of any new process for an enterprise, and cloud should be no different. Before rushing into implementation, CIOs should determine how they are going to track effectiveness and success at the outset. Drive toward a strategy that engages the cloud in a multi-phased approach that helps to demonstrate early, quick wins from which all involved gain confidence to tackle increasingly complex cloud capabilities.
Give Yourself Both an Exit and a Path to Expansion
More than perhaps any other leader within an organization, CIOs today are sitting at the crossroads of the “old” versus the “new.” What works today versus the game-changer of tomorrow? When it comes to enterprise-wide adoption of cloud technology, CIOs need to recognize not only the promise, but also the perils that are associated with it and work to introduce cloud while simultaneously maintaining as a safety net the legacy systems that have ably served the company to date. In short, don’t abandon the reliable “old” before being certain of the “new.”
While leaving the organization the option to go back, CIOs also must ensure that they select a cloud solution that they can build on over time as needs and market conditions change. As Oracle’s Michael Hickins wrote, adaptability is key. “Don’t get trapped in an ecosystem that doesn’t let you easily add new and even custom-built features to extend cloud applications.”
Read the Fine Print on Data Security, and Prepare for the Worst
With the adoption of cloud technology, data privacy and security are the coin of the realm for any organization. It is vital for CIOs to take the time to examine all of the security features of a cloud solution before moving forward to purchase and implementation. According to the Cloud Security Alliance’s Cloud Usage: Risks and Opportunities Report, 25.5 percent of respondents don’t have security policies or procedures in place to deal with data security in the cloud, and 6.4 percent don’t know if they have the proper policies in place. As CIO, don’t assume. Know.
Ready the Staff
It’s called “disruptive” technology for a reason. The process of introducing cloud solutions across the diverse departments of an enterprise can have a systemic effect on company culture. Cloud buyer’s remorse can become very real, very quickly, for CIOs if the workforce isn’t properly prepared for the change. The cloud does not have a heart (it’s a “machine,” after all), but users do and they need to be brought forward into tomorrow with intentionality and care.
As such, the prudent method is far less the “big bang” and instead more of a pilot approach throughout the company, coupled with regular feedback from personnel who are activating both the solutions and those affected by the implementation itself.
The benefits of the cloud for organizations of all disciplines and sizes are extreme, and the technology is here to stay. The current environment presents today’s CIO with both the opportunity to capitalize on this innovation and drive the enterprise forward, as well as the challenge of doing it the right way, or risking setbacks and stagnation. The pressure to act is real, and the time to move to the cloud is now. But the transition that is made methodically, with planning and care, will win the race. Go slow to go fast.
Jim Cole is the co-founder of Hitachi Consulting’s Outsourcing Services practice. As a Senior Vice President, he has more than 26 years of experience in outsourcing, executive management, and strategic consulting, with significant sales expertise. He has a special emphasis on IT planning and strategy, partner channel management, and client development, with technical implementation experience in enterprise applications (ERP), CAD/CAM, e-business, IT operations, and network design/management.
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