by James Staten

CIOs: Lead the change

Dec 03, 20125 mins
Cloud Computing

Cloud services, from departmental Service-as-a-Service applications to consumer-facing file sharing, are being brought into the organisation, and they are increasingly weaving their ways into business workflows. This trend will grow over the next eight years, and the role of enterprise business technology will shift from procuring and managing services to guiding the business to better cloud service choices and integrating these services with other business systems.

This change will require a shift in skill sets and knowledge from your business technology teams. Forrester’s Cloud Computing Playbook details the skills change required and four key roles CIOs working on cloud computing will need to develop in their organisations to proactively engage cloud buyers.

Tech-savvy employees are choosing cloud services

Three forces of change will have a dramatic impact on the business- IT relationship:

1) business-ready, self-service technology;

2) empowered, tech-savvy employees;

3) a radically more complex business environment.

Each force on its own has ramifications for IT, but taken together, these forces create the perfect storm to topple the IT status quo.

The technology services market is undergoing a massive transformation toward business self-service as services become easier to use and economically easier to consume. Today, business executives will choose cloud and SaaS options that were completely off their radar just 18 to 24 months earlier as the appeal of per-use pricing, faster time-to-productivity, and rapid feature enhancement highly differentiate these services from the IT status quo.

At the same time,cloud services, smartphones and tablets, are increasingly finding favour among information workers who discover them in their personal lives and increasingly use them for work. In a world where cloud services brought in by empowered employees become the norm, IT must evolve to a new model of business technology, which Forrester calls “empowered BT” and defines as:

A technology approach that embeds enabling technology innovation in the business while providing “just enough” centralised coordination and oversight for enterprise-wide goals.

Empowered BT ensures innovation at the edge with enterprise-wide supportability by engaging empowered business leaders in a new manner — teaching the business how to leverage new technologies in a manner compatible with existing enterprise needs and existing assets. However, four key roles are necessary to pull this off:

  1. BT visionaries, who see what new capabilities technology will bring, consider how customer interactions change, and look across to see what other firms are doing.
  1. Consultants, who provide specialized resources and skills as business needs them.
  2. Integrators, who are the architects or developers from the IT organisation.
  3. Sustainability experts who provide guidance and manage the guardrails.

Guardrails for Cloud management

To avoid the staff bandwidth problems of today’s IT department, you need to avoid trying to replicate and centralise everything technical in the company. Instead, CIOs need to consciously stop trying to prescribe solutions and instead focus on guiding the business toward the best choices.

Central IT’s responsibility when managing cloud services must shift from “doing” to setting the rules, articulating the means of integration and data management necessary to protect the business, and then auditing and governing compliance with these rules. To do so, implementation must be collectively owned through a partnership among the business, cloud service providers, and central IT – with IT defining essential requirements, the business incorporating them, and the cloud service providers complying. Then central IT should audit implementations. Furthermore, when seams show between cloud and internal services, technology consultants must fill the gaps while following the architectural guidelines set by central IT.

Basically, if you simply stop at setting guidelines, you ensure that no one will follow them. You must establish a formal training regimen and a means of inspection. Inspection should be viewed as part of training, not as enforcement.

CIOs — Lead your organisation to a new mindset

Shifting your IT organisation’s strategy to empowered BT may require new skill sets, people, and a new organisational structure, but these are all secondary: You first have to change the mindset within IT. The change you will have to bring forth comes down to actions to take now and behaviors that should be stopped.

To take action, you would need to perform an audit to identify the cloud services already in use. You need to start embracing your empowered business users instead of viewing them as troublemakers. You also need to stop thinking IT needs to provision and control all new services. Rather, start decentralising technical expertise into the business through embedding, shadowing, evangelizing, or more formal innovation networks.

If you teach your staff to listen and absorb the business’ desires and objectives first, then work through potential solutions with the business before layering on any potential constraints, you could objectively determine whether fulfilling a business need with new cloud services is possible.

Lastly, you need to stop making “one-size IT” fit all needs. Your organisation must consciously shift from a focus on enforcing standards and guidelines to defining and communicating guidelines and guardrails.

James Staten is a principal analyst serving infrastructure and operations professionals at Forrester Research.

Effective business architecture enables CIOs to deliver on strategy