Cloud Decisions May Take a Village, but the CIO Must Take Charge


It all started out innocently enough. Go online; type in your credit card number; spin up a server. That simple, elegant process quickly propelled the cloud from the fringe to the mainstream. But thanks to that very success, the days of innocence are over. Things have gotten way more serious – and complicated.

How serious are cloud decisions? In the City of Barcelona, officials hopped on a plane and flew to Microsoft’s Cloud data center in Dublin, Ireland, to observe first hand how things are run – and thereby to gain an understanding and comfort level for using the Microsoft’s public cloud .  That’s serious.

The time has come when all stakeholders must be involved in cloud decisions. Consider these findings from the 2014 IDG Enterprise Cloud Computing Study: 23% say cloud spending takes place at their organizations outside of IT, a number that is expected to reach 28% within three years. The non-IT areas that are funding cloud initiatives are led by marketing (45%), sales (43%) and HR (40%).

CIOs, take note. While it’s important for an agile enterprise to allow business the freedom to initiate cloud services, a complete lack of IT involvement could lead to problems later on. Many of these non-IT cloud initiatives actually come back under control of IT later due to problems, according to the survey.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Clint Boulton explains that when IT people show up after a cloud service has been deployed, it’s a bit like the parents coming home to find a teenage party in progress. Boulton cites the case of Thermo Fisher, a Waltham, Mass., life sciences company, where engineers were using the cloud for minor tasks, but they would leave those tasks processing through the weekend. Such wasteful usage was wiping out the savings of the cloud. “Would you like someone leaving the shower running in your house all weekend long?” asked Mark Field, vice president of IT at Thermo Fisher.

So who should be involved in cloud decisions? It might be easier to tally who should not be involved. Clearly, the people who will be running the cloud-based applications should have a say. Finance, security and compliance officers should also have a seat at the table. But most important is IT.

Only IT has the skills needed to fully understand whether a given cloud service is a wise choice and whether it’s the right one to use – and for which applications. Ideally, that platform should supply core infrastructure services, platform services to grow into and higher level services that add business value – just like the apps that run on servers today.  And it should provide flexibility to move services, apps and computing needs from your private cloud to hosted clouds – and to public clouds – and back.

So if you’re a CIO, be assertive and provide the adult supervision that’s needed. Get the input of your technology experts, evaluate vendors and try out a few clouds – know the pros and the cons of each.  Involve the stakeholders, but be proactive and present them with a menu of cloud services from your preferred provider. It’s a much better strategy than trying to clean up a mess afterwards.

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