Where are your users learning about the birds and the bees of cloud?

bird nest egg hatch
Credit: Daniel Marquard

Where did you learn about the birds and bees? From your adolescent peers? How did that work out for accuracy? The same is true today for users learning about the cloud. You’re the CIO, shouldn’t they be learning it from you?


Where did you learn about the birds and bees? From your adolescent peers? How did that work out for accuracy? Today, kids learn the facts of life from their peers and the internet.

The same is true for your users when it comes to learning about the cloud — with the same, sometimes disastrous, consequences. You’re the CIO, shouldn’t they be learning cloud from you? Stop making like Rodney Dangerfield and lamenting that IT gets no respect. Step up and reach out.

Cloud use is spreading rapidly, but most of your users have a vague or misguided concept of what cloud computing really is — and what its promises and pitfalls are. Want proof? Often quoted are Gartner’s Top 10 Cloud Myths. But that's just scratching the service. A little digging reveals lots of misconceptions about software as a service (SaaS), like here and here. Even your peers on the management committee hold foggy notions of how it works but are reluctant to admit it. Instead they echo some of the buzzwords, quote an article they read in the Wall Street Journal, etc. Let’s face it: Your company is already pregnant with cloud. Why not take a page from what your fellow department heads are doing and get ahead of the curve?

Your head of human resources works hard at building and executing an education program for the company’s staff. It’s designed to encompass the many different facets of management and leadership to facilitate employees’ progress. It also points out all the policies and laws that the organization must comply with. Attendance and regular testing is mandatory and for good reason. To grow, your company needs knowledgeable leadership and a strong culture. To stay out of trouble, employees need to understand the organization's — and society’s — norms and boundaries.

Your CFO does the same. Folks are regularly exposed to and held accountable for the business metrics and methodologies used to manage and steer the enterprise. If the company is going to reach its goals, it's critical that employees understand the how and why of what you do. Likewise, there are a lot of regulations where compliance is essential. They range from those covering all businesses, like Sarbanes-Oxley and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, to those that are industry-specific, like HIPAA or Dodd-Frank.

It’s a good bet that operations, marketing and other functions in the company do the same: provide development and tools for success while also pointing out the guardrails that ensure that actions taken are in accord with company culture and societal norms.

What are you, as the head of IT, doing to help your colleagues succeed with technology? Let’s guess. Odds are you focus on the guardrails. You require employees to use strong passwords and teach them how to identify phishing emails, avoid risky behavior on the internet and safely use corporate data on their mobile devices. All worthy endeavors, but that’s not the half of it. As the fundamentals of your company become increasingly digital, people in business units are spending buckets of money on cloud computing. Who is teaching them about cloud? Who is helping employees make good decisions and avoid bear traps in cloud?

Safe bet it's not you. SaaS vendors go around you and directly to users. In meetings and at conferences, users hear their peers and buddies buzz about the latest cloud-based tool — one that they can try out for free!

You turn around and — surprise! — everyone is on Salesforce.com and they're asking you to link it to your old Oracle order management system.

Why not get ahead of the curve? Teach your users about the cloud. Give them the basics, dispel the myths, and present case studies that are relevant to your industry and environment. Give them the big picture, too. Cloud computing is pretty prominent in the press these days: all the way from how everyone can use it to how it's transforming whole industries.

Oracle buys NetSuite. Salesforce.com elects to use Amazon Web Services. Workday announces that it will use IBM’s cloud for development. Are any of those developments relevant to your enterprise? If so, why not send a short email with your point of view to all users, or post your thoughts on your internal social media site? Are you too busy to write something? Send a link to an article or blog post you particularly liked.

Make yourself the go-to guy when different parts of the company contemplate using cloud-based tools. Do it for the company, and do it for yourself. The CIO's job description and IT’s role are changing, and you need to negotiate a difficult path. Some even predict the CIO position will disappear. Nothing is certain, but wouldn’t it be better if your users viewed you as a valuable and essential member of the team?

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