IT Needs To Be Strategic To Get Benefit Of Cloud Computing
Over the past couple of years, we’ve all heard plenty of buzz about the cloud computing transformation. Many companies grasped the cloud vision early and are now several years into their cloud journey. Many more that have been sitting on the sidelines are beginning to adopt a “Why not cloud” or “Cloud first” strategy.
Now that the hype is settling down, let’s take a look at what it takes to be ready to benefit from the cloud, and the real transformation it brings.
Aside from the obvious, such as having enough internet capacity to all the locations where you want to use a cloud solution, and having an integration strategy to bring your solutions together, there’s something less technical and more fundamental companies need to be ready for the cloud: collaboration between IT and the business.
In the on-premise world, IT was the software owner, with all the responsibility for support and maintenance, and the business was the end user. Implementation, integration and upgrades could cost millions of dollars, take months if not years and were typically handled by large IT teams contracting with specialized systems integrators.
In the cloud world you don't see massive IT organizations so much anymore, and you don't have IT people that are just there for grunt work like monitoring or applying patches. When you remove all the tactical baggage associated with on- premise software, it frees up IT to take on a more strategic role. This is the real transformation the cloud enables—if you’re ready for it and approach it with that in mind.
Today’s cloud solutions are so easy to get up and running, and since they can be bought on a subscriptions basis, bypassing the capital budgeting process, there’s a temptation for the business to go out and get what they need, also bypassing IT. That promise has certainly been part of the hype.
The reality is, it’s not that simple. Cloud software works best in a collaborative partnership between IT and the business. Both business and IT have a role to play as co-owners.
The business should own things like configuration if they want to change a business process, but IT should be there to play a supporting role. They’re the ones that should understand the systems at a deeper technical level, and also at a strategic level because they have visibility into all of the different solutions within the company.
During the evaluation process, the business is best positioned to understand the business requirements and identify potential solutions. IT can contribute it’s understanding of the internal and external vendor landscape to identify more possible solutions. Then, they can help the business vet vendor systems architecture, integration strategies, storage and security.
Cloud software makes it so much easier to do updates. IT needs to be involved with the technical aspects, but as far as functionality, the business is best positioned to know features and they should take and what the business impact of it will be, so the two need to work together.
During implementation, the business has the best visibility into what they’re doing inside their four walls. IT knows what’s going on company wide and can play a strategic role in determining how to integrate all the solutions to create a holistic view that is more than the sum of its parts.
For example, let’s say you’re running Coupa for procurement and SalesForce as your CRM. You could integrate those two systems such that data for spending on marketing activities can be tied to sales opportunities, providing management much better insight for decision making.
Neither of those solution owners would probably think of that on their own, much less execute on the idea. A strategic IT department could.
They may also be able to identify capabilities the software has that could benefit other parts of the company beyond the solution owner.
For example, Coupa is made for procurement and finance, but contains a lot of workflow capabilities. Internally, we use those for handling vacation requests. No one is going to buy it for that, and HR probably isn’t going to know it can do that, but it can. Using it that way increases the utility and ROI of the solution.
These are the kind of things a more strategic IT department can help with, and some retraining or shifting of personnel may be needed to get there.
Yes, the cloud offers a powerful new set of tools, but at the end of the day they’re only tools. To really capitalize on all the cloud has to offer requires IT to morph to a new, more strategic and collaborative mindset and think differently about how they operate. They need to partner with the business and move from systems support to decision support, which is ultimately a more powerful and transformative role.