Today’s email brought yet another invitation to a cloud event. This one is a travelling road show with keynotes and multiple break-out sessions to explore developing a cloud strategy and different aspects of moving to the cloud. A whole day on the cloud with lunch and cocktails included. Great stuff to be sure. A must attend or another example of a good solution in search of a problem?
There is no doubt that cloud computing offers opportunities to improve IT’s ability to deliver services to the business more cost effectively. This is especially true for high labour, low return, commodity activities that divert IT resources from those which can produce additional business value. Hence the recent announcement of Spanish bank BBVA to move 11,000 employees to a cloud service for routine office applications. While not all desktop support will disappear, the net result has to be a real increase in resources that BBVA’s IT organization can focus on improving support for the core business of banking, without the distraction of the constant grind to keep email in synch with mobile devices, and keeping routine office functions, document sharing, word processing and spreadsheets running smoothly.
As cloud offers delivery of some generic services to the business at a better cost point than doing those services in-house, it makes sense that, if you aren’t already, you should start looking at what’s involved in moving to cloud. Will moving to the cloud produce value for your business? Is that even the right question to ask? The danger with cloud - or virtualization, green computing, BYOD, etc - is not that it isn’t a good idea that may have real benefits, but in understanding how can you use it as a part of your overall IT delivery infrastructure.
Too often CIOs view IT strategic plans as exercises done to keep finance happy, set up a long-term capital budget for equipment replacement, and sit on a shelf gathering dust until the next budget cycle. After all, most of IT management is focused on the day-to-day tactical delivery business. The overall business’ strategic plan is impacted by changes in economic climate, market factors, and external factors such as changes in government policy, among many. IT strategic plans have to evolve, sometimes very quickly, to enable the business to meet those changing conditions, by adding new function and improving effectiveness of current systems. IT has to be opportunistic, with flexibility to adopt new technologies to continue provide best overall IT value. The IT strategic plan defines the architecture, not just the technical infrastructure, but also the business approach to how the services are to be delivered.
While a source of information, the answer to whether moving to the cloud is right for your business won’t come from seminars explaining how to set a “cloud strategy.” It has to come from your IT strategic plan and the architecture that implements it. That the cloud benefits are clear enough to percolate into industries as risk adverse as banking warrants a further look. If the benefits are there for your business, and cloud isn’t already a part of the IT strategic plan, then there are only two alternatives: change the plan or forget about cloud.