by Sandra Hamilton

The Journey to Your Cloud…. and other stories

Apr 10, 2011
IT Leadership

Firstly, I would like to say a big thanks to the kind folks at who have generously provided me the time and space to write this – my first ever guest blog. It’s a new experience for me – and quite a daunting one. I now have to try and come up with something new and interesting to say every day for two whole weeks! Wish me luck…

I hope to touch on a range of topics during my tenure but my chosen specialised subject is Cloud Computing. Not because it’s the next big thing or because everyone seems to be  talking about it, but because I passionately believe that it can make a huge difference to the value and impact afforded to a CIO by the organisation that he or she works for.

“Cloud” — however you choose to define it — is undoubtedly one of those big transformational waves that sweep through our industry every so often. Regardless of what kind of IT organization you’re running, if you’re an IT leader, cloud concepts will undoubtedly impact your role and the business going forward. For most of you, and for many different reasons, Cloud ranks very high on the 2011 priority list.  In fact, Gartner has indicated cloud computing is the top priority for CIOs this year. 

I don’t doubt that many of you have already figured out what the potential benefits of cloud could be in many areas. Going further, I suspect a few of you may also have had it foisted upon you by the CEO who has read a few articles and thinks everything (and by everything they really mean their bottom line) could be solved by putting IT into the Cloud.  Or perhaps innovative application developers or business stakeholders have been piloting new applications in the public cloud, and you’re concerned that you’d better rein these horses in before it’s too late.

So how do you start this important journey – and perhaps taking a step back from that – what do you need to consider before you do so?

One of the most common mistakes regarding Cloud is that it is often addressed purely from a technological point of view. The tendency is to start with the basic question ‘how am I going to move from this complicated legacy jigsaw puzzle to a simple converged architecture?’.  While that is a very valid question it is not, in my humble opinion, where the process should begin.

Rather the first question should be ‘what business benefits can Cloud deliver to my business?’ Is it simply about IT efficiency or is it about decreasing time to market, or staying ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation or expanding out into new markets?

Let us take a moment to consider the subject of “efficiency” which covers a lot of conceptual ground but basically means getting more value back for every dollar you spend.  That can be CAPEX, OPEX, fixed vs. variable expenditures, cost transparency, service delivery, etc. etc.  Lots of different sub-cases under the broad concept — the goal here is to find a critical mass of efficiency potential that resonates to a particular situation.

Investing in IT transformation to get meaningfully more efficient IT spend ought to be enough to make the case for cloud, but there’s a more compelling reason.

Having more agile IT to improve the responsiveness of the business to new market drivers, competitive threats, opportunities and economic conditions is fundamental to developing a competitive advantage. Therefore understanding business requirements and the ability to do new things very quickly, is criticalfor the success of your cloud initiative. It is important for you to understand what success looks like for your business (and how it is measured) so that ‘the business’ is engaged in the early stages.

The second key question to address is ‘what can the Cloud help me to deliver that I wasn’t able to before?’ A simple concept yes, but also an area that many organizations must carefully consider in terms of associated cost, architecture, and productivity factors.

If you have a twelve-month waiting list for new application development, will Cloud help you shorten it? Will it give you and your team more time to spend investigating what tools are out there to help you support the business better? Remember – Cloud isn’t a threat, it’s an opportunity. The tendency amongst some will be to see it as an excuse for the business to cut IT costs, reduce headcount and effectively outsource more. In fact, it gives you as the CIO, the ability to add real value by giving you the capacity to focus on what is important and more importantly, to actually do something about it.

There are two other priorities when it comes to figuring out your Cloud roadmap. The first is metrics. How are you going to measure it? Once you know what success looks like to the business – how do ensure that you demonstrate the value that you are delivering?

The second – and this is the final point in this first chapter – is the roadmap itself. How long is this process going to take? What are the near and longer-term priorities? Where’s the best place for an early success? It is also going to be important that you trial a few things first so you need to factor that in. Whether it’s testing out solutions in the relative comfort of the IT department or within the wider business, it is going to be important that you don’t jump right in at the deep end.

So what I am really saying is before you even think about the technical implications of a move to the Cloud you need to put the business first. With the business successfully engaged you should find the process a lot easier and that greater levels of support exist for what you are doing. You may also find it makes them a lot more inclined to listen to you!


EMC has developed a number of valuable and useful assets that can assist you on the journey to your cloud. For more information go to: