by Bryan Cruickshank

Getting the business ready for the Cloud: The role of the CIO

Nov 28, 20114 mins
CareersCloud ComputingIT Leadership

It should be obvious to readers of this publication that cloud represents a step-change in the development of new and existing business models for most organisations.

And there is every indication that the era of cloud is only just getting started, meaning there is much more change on the way.

One of the biggest changes will be in the way cloud creates value by offering greater interoperability within the enterprise.

To date, most cloud adoption has focussed on well-contained point solutions that are implemented to support individual business functions such as Sales and Marketing, HR or Finance.

But cloud also provides CIOs with an opportunity to integrate different business functions onto a common platform, reducing cost and complexity and providing an agile environment to meet emerging business opportunities and changing regulation.

Getting there won’t be easy and the CIO will need to make some significant changes in the way that IT engages with the business.

A business-led IT strategy For one, CIOs will need to recognise that cloud is not purely an IT play. In fact, in a recent survey by KPMG and Forbes Insights of more than 800 executives (Clarity in the Cloud: A global study of the business adoption of Cloud), we found that business unit executives and CIOs tended to have rather different views on cloud leadership.

Not surprisingly, IT executives most often viewed the migration to Cloud as a technology initiative and therefore led by the CIO.

But in the minds of business executives, the natural leader of cloud-based initiatives should be the CEO or possibly COO, reflecting the broad impact that cloud has on the business model (consider, for example, how cloud might transform the way a company brings products to market, enters new geographies or harvests real-time business intelligence from the supply chain).

As a result, CIOs will need to champion a more co-operative approach to the delivery of cloud services.

Recognising this, many of our clients are starting to ask how they can help their organisation prepare to take advantage of the benefits of cloud.

Developing cooperative approaches to cloud First and foremost, the CIO must work with the business to develop a shared vision for cloud, and then collaboratively build a strategy to identify the priorities that may be cloud-enabled, assess the organisation’s capability to adopt and adapt, and jointly work to execute against it.

This will require CIOs to develop a tightly governed organisation made up of business and IT stakeholders, industry experts and vendor partners who work together to bring clarity to the delivery of the organisation’s cloud strategy.

A framework for success IT executives will also need to develop and deliver many of the core standards and processes for operating in the cloud.

This may include developing new ways of working with the business to achieve a shared platform for the delivery of business services, working with procurement on flexible and agile approaches to cloud purchases whilst developing and implementing technology standards and principles to support product development and delivery.

It will also be critical for CIOs to establish core standards in IT service development, spanning from applications through to infrastructure in order to embed cloud principles into their operations.

This means embracing the benefits of on-demand, elastic, scalable and metered technology solutions so that current and future product releases make the most of these key cloud characteristics in order to provide the CIO and the business with real choices in the channels and vendors that they use.

Clearly, getting ready for the cloud is not a one-off project for the CIO, but rather a change programme that will bring them into close co-operation with all facets of the organisation over several years.