It is clear that in general, ICT has grown slightly, or radically, away from the parent business in the past few years. The advent of technology in the personal device space has grown and changed dramatically while in business terms many organisation’s ICT assets are still in the early 2000’s. In order for ICT to be trusted by the business, they must change they way that they deliver ICT services from a traditional technology driven model to one of pure service delivery. This is true for any ICT organisation, though with Cloud, it becomes far more important.

ICT is no longer a technology enabler for business, it is transforming into a pure service delivery driven business unit that is the ICT broker for the organisation and ensures that the organisation gets the ICT services they need. If this change is not embraced then ICT will find themselves irrelevant as the business will form relationships with external providers who can meet this model.

The previous blog looked at the ICT Stocktake, touched on the elements that the ICT organisation needs to have in place before looking to purchase and consume Cloud services. This blog looks at the ICT business aspects that need to be examined before considering Cloud. Again, it is not a comprehensive list and it is also a list that has to be scaled to fit your organisation size and type.

The ICT organisation needs to start exploring and understanding the following elements in order to support the move toward Cloud Services. There are no hard and fast metrics or methodologies for the topics, what we are talking about here is building an understanding and awareness of the various pieces in order to start the investigation process and then eventual transition process to Cloud services.

  • Executive understanding
  • Business strategy
  • Cloud services tipping point
  • User profiling
  • Service maturity
  • ICT culture
  • ICT organisation reformation & cloud disruption to traditional roles
  • Cloud futures

Executive understanding

If you don’t understand what Cloud is and you can’t give the thirty-second elevator speech then chances are your business executive doesn’t. You need to educate yourself on what Cloud is, at a high-level, and then educate your sponsors and executive. The Cloud Primer will go some way to a basic explanation, however you need to put that into business context. Prepare yourself for the inevitable risk and cost discussions.

The risk of Cloud services is often skewed, understand the common barriers to Cloud in the business thinking and how those barriers, and risks, can become opportunities. I.e. Security is often touted as a high-risk around adoption of Cloud services, however, the chances are that your Cloud provider is doing security better than you are.

Be very cautious discussing cost savings with your business. On a day-to-day operating level they may present a lower cost than a traditional ICT service, but remember you have to transition and get there. That process of investigation, transition, and bedding in, is expensive.

Business strategy

In order to understand what services are most appropriate to support your business, you need to understand where they are heading. Buying a Cloud service to simply save money, is likely to result in a fail. Buying a Cloud service to enable a business strategy, will always be a win. Business tends to do strategy a lot better than ICT, it is a safe place to be when your strategy is tightly aligned with theirs. Understand the challenges the business faces, the direction they are going over the next five years, the current problems, and their view of how ICT fits to support that.

Cloud services tipping point

The day will come where you can only consume certain ICT services via Cloud. For example, both Microsoft and Oracle are pouring hundreds of millions into the delivery of their services from a Cloud model. Office 2013 will represent a leap toward that future, as does Windows 8, released only this week. If you examine the services that you currently procure for the business, where are they going in terms of Cloud? How long do you have before a change is forced on you? There are certainly some benefits, and risks, in being an early adopter for those services. Understanding your provides roadmaps for products will be a key part of picking your first services to transition to Cloud.

User profiling

It is important to understand a couple of things about your user community. The first is how they feel about your ICT service today and the second is their own usage habits particularly outside of work. Both elements will provide useful intelligence on your Cloud journey.

It is important to understand what the users think about their ICT service and tools today. If you don’t have that information you risk deploying services that simply will not be used, or worse, will be held up as a reason for staff not being able to do their job easily.

Coupled with that view is the one that looks at how the users consume technology outside of work. The reason for this is in order to at the very least, prepare yourself for a bring your own device (BYOD) world, but also to understand how hard it is going to be to move the user community from the current ICT services to the Cloud based services. The closer the services you buy match the user home experience, the easier the transition.

A warning. Survey all the users. Don’t allow the business to foist the noisy, angry users onto you. Make sure you get a good representation when you investigate.

Service maturity

I touched on this in an earlier post and want to reiterate it here. Understand your current level of ICT maturity against a common standard such as ITIL. You don’t need to buy a $2,000 a day consultant to undertake this work, you just need to invest some time in researching how your processes map against the one-page ITIL maturity model. It will show you where your weaknesses are if nothing else.

ICT culture

As an ICT leader prepare yourself well for this particular area. Cloud services represent a perceived loss of control to your ICT group. Where they may have been delivering those services before, with complete control, in the future they are more likely to be focussing on service integrity and the transport layer as opposed to the day-to-day administration tasks of an internal system. The mere mention of Cloud services will strike fear into the hearts of the internal ICT staff and you will see an explosion of FUD (Fear, uncertainty, and doubt).

Start the conversation early. Understand how your ICT culture is going to react to the consumption of Cloud services. Make sure that risks are quantified, for example if staff tell you it is too risky from a security perspective, ask them to detail that risk using a standard organisation format and process.

Ask the ICT staff what services they see as candidates for Cloud transition and how it could happen.

ICT organisation reformation & cloud disruption to traditional roles

Understand what roles you will need to support a move to Cloud services and the changes that you will have to make to your ICT organisation as a result. This is still a forming area, however you can assume that in order to deliver ICT services to your business using Cloud, you will need to alter your structure to a more service delivery focussed and structured unit.

There are a number of models available publicly including CMM and ITIL.

Be careful in your thinking though. Just restructuring your ICT organisation to a service delivery model over a month is likely to produce a terrible result. Cloud will take months and years to transition to properly, your organisation change will take that long as well to change. Despite the accepted reality, change does not have to be an all or nothing three-month death march. It can be done carefully over time, in fact, that process is much more likely to produce the results you want while giving you the ability to repurpose skilled staff into the Cloud area. Because let’s face it, there aren’t that many people who understand your business and Cloud technology, losing that skilled resource could be catastrophic.

Cloud futures

There are only two things that are certain about Cloud. The first is that it will be a disruptive technology that is here to stay. The second is that the future of it as a service is very uncertain.

Gartner tells us that the current hype around Cloud service is at peak. Indeed, every technology company on the planet is rolling out Cloud services and strategies in an orgy of marketing and advertising. The number of Cloud services for businesses and the consumer is exploding. We know that ICT follows particular cycles and what we see here is the massive growth spurt that comes with new technology.

It can’t last, at some point the hundreds of Cloud providers must consolidate. In fact, if you look a little deeper around the edges you can already see some companies going under (generally the first providers of Cloud services who may have gone a little too early) and large ICT organisations starting to buy up smaller providers.

Think about it for yourself. You have an Android phone, Microsoft laptop, and an Apple iPad. All of them using separate services you have to maintain. It’s getting to a pain point where we, the user, will want consolidation.

Make sure that you are kept up to date with happenings. For example, news.google.com allows you to set up email news alerts based on search terms, this is a great way to get a daily digest of information on what is happening in the Cloud world.

It is important to pick the right providers, ask them for their Cloud roadmaps. Sign an NDA if you have too, but figure out where they are going. At some point you are going to trust an external provider with something that is likely critical to your business.

Summary

  • Take the time to educate yourself thoroughly on Cloud services.
  • Cloud is accelerating the move from traditional in-source compliance based ICT models to a ICT service delivery model.
  • The business will move to Cloud without you if you don’t have a strong relationship with them and understand where they are going and what they need.
  • Cloud will be disruptive to your ICT organisation.
  • Understanding the holistic environment in which you need to deliver ICT services is essential.

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