The shift to cloud-based infrastructures and services isn’t an easy one. Sure, there are plenty of opportunities: lower costs, increased agility and the freedom to refocus your IT staff on your core business. However, with every opportunity comes a corresponding risk, including but not limited to security challenges, downtime and a loss of IT control.
It’s no wonder that CIOs and IT managers continue to hem and haw like Hamlet when asked about the cloud. One day, they’ll tell you they’re aggressive about the cloud, before backing off the next day and stressing the need for caution.
A recent cloud survey by Dimensional Research (commissioned by Host Analytics) found that CIOs and IT executives express a mixture of optimism and concern about cloud computing.
“Businesses are investing heavily in cloud computing today,” said Diane Hagglund, senior research analyst for Dimensional Research and the study’s author. "Our research reveals high optimism and expectations among CIOs and IT executives for cloud adoption and value, but also hurdles, including the anticipation that IT will end up operating cloud applications bought by other areas of the business and without input from IT.”
While 92 percent of respondents believe the adoption of cloud technologies is good for business, nearly as many (88 percent) report struggling to make SaaS business applications work properly. A full 67 percent believe that cloud technologies will help IT deliver better systems for less money, but 69 percent say their companies still work primarily with on-premise applications.
No matter how cautious IT wants to be about cloud adoption, the decision of whether to embrace the cloud is often out of their hands. If the business side of the organization decides the cloud is a silver bullet that will cut costs and increase value, it won’t be long before cloud migration is mandated.
One of the main advantages of moving to the cloud is that IT can transition from a role that mostly consists of putting out fires and conducting laborious maintenance to one that allows them to refocus on their organizations’ core business goals.
It’s hard to innovate around business objectives when you’re busy configuring routers, applying patches, resetting passwords and administering complex CRM, ERP and SFA applications. However, it can be equally hard to overcome the worries about cloud computing that come from other departments. HR may worry about privacy issues, while the COO may (rightly) fret over things like IP theft.
With any major technological shift, it’s wise to start small and build slowly but surely on early gains. The fact is that in many organizations, developers are already using cloud platforms, but they’re not bothering to tell the larger organization about this.
And the cloud has seeped into the enterprise in other ways, as well. Are you using Salesforce.com, Google Apps, SharePoint Online or Marketo? Are you using Dropbox or Box to help you work when away from the office? If so, you’re already embracing the cloud.
What IT needs to do in order to smooth the migration to the cloud is make users aware of these facts.
IT should pick a few applications that have high administrative burdens and move them into the cloud, one at a time. Then, IT can serve as a proof of concept, which will help convince the rest of the organization that the shift to the cloud is in its best interest.
IT may not always have a rosy cloud outlook. Many IT pros will worry about job security during a shift to the cloud. Meanwhile, certain departments may worry that they’ll cede control in the shift.
There’s no question that IT’s role within the organization will change, and some specialties may disappear.
AlertBoot, a data encryption vendor, moved its entire business into the cloud. “We used to have EMC and Cisco contractors we used on a part-time basis, but since we moved operations to the cloud, we haven’t needed their services,” CEO Tim Maliyil said. AlertBoot ended up saving $100,000 per year in consulting costs, and overall saves $85,000 a month from shifting to the cloud.
However, Maliyil believe that IT resources are now spent more strategically. IT can focus solely on innovation and better serving customers.
Kevin Bocek, VP of marketing for CipherCloud, believes that the shift to the cloud is an opportunity that should be embraced by IT.
“Cloud computing gives IT the opportunity to move from boiler room to captain’s chair,” Bocek said. IT’s role will definitely change. IT pros will need more general business skills in coming years, and far better communications skills.
In fact, the nature of IT has already changed dramatically. “Ten years ago, CIOs started out as application developers,” Bocek said. “Today, it’s more common for them to get their starts as business analysts.”
IT can either see cloud as threat to their job security, or they can see it as an opportunity to elevate themselves into more valuable roles.