by CIO Executive Council

3 CIOs Give Thumbs-Up to the Cloud

Dec 19, 20134 mins
CIOCloud ComputingIT Leadership

Cloud-based systems have made these IT organizations more agile, more strategic and better able to hone a competitive edge

Cloud-based systems can help IT organizations be more agile and achieve greater business engagement, gain a competitive edge, and deliver strategic solutions faster. These three CIOs discuss how they succeeded on the cloud.

A Path to Agility, Business Engagement

Mike Benson, CIO, DirecTV: The cloud has helped me, as a CIO, become more agile. Cloud apps tend to be very flexible and easy to bring up and pilot. If it isn’t a good fit, we can easily go in another direction.

We began pursuing cloud-enabled apps four years ago. Today, the IT department delivers business capabilities more quickly than we could with traditional applications. Two years ago, our commercial business relied on manual processes such as faxes and had no visibility into leads.

We decided to experiment with for lead generation; we brought the system up quickly, and it worked out well. Now, we’re taking to the next level in our direct sales organization as a lead-to-order tool.

Now that we don’t need a capital expense every time we want to start something up, expenses don’t necessarily show up in the IT budget–they are in the budget of the department that requested the service. From my perspective, departments are now more engaged in our conversations–they understand where the value comes from, and they are more invested in the solution because they have financial skin in the game.

Gaining a Competitive Edge

Mark Popolano, CIO, ProSight Specialty Insurance Group: In established organizations, moving to cloud services requires careful consideration of the risks associated with transferring responsibility to a provider while ensuring that the organization’s ability to accept process and functional changes is within tolerable limits.

The costs may appear relatively straightforward, but consideration must be given to the longer-term impacts related to delivery time frames, business service-level expectations and possible loss of competitive advantage.

At a younger organization such as mine, the IT organization can evaluate and choose technologies in the same way a venture capitalist examines investments. We concentrate our efforts toward fast adaptation in areas that will bring the greatest return to our business segment, and we minimize expenditures in areas where just being “good enough” won’t hurt us.

The IT organization focuses on examining the short- and long-term risk-and-reward balance of technology and on choosing providers that can respond to the changing demands of our customer base while keeping our costs within an acceptable range.

The cloud allows smaller companies to compete effectively with much larger entities on both product enrichment and speed of delivery. Barriers to entry due to expensive and time-consuming development efforts are quickly being eliminated.

Faster Delivery of Strategic Solutions

Jeff Hutchinson, CIO, Maple Leaf Foods: Enabling cloud capabilities will be an integral part of our success as we continue to move to an open architecture based on commodity hardware that will run our core, on-premise SAP ERP.

With SAP offering more cloud-based solutions, such as CRM and databases, we will have the flexibility to choose between on-premise and cloud-based information solutions.

Cloud capabilities open up a whole new world of opportunities. My team can develop and deploy solutions that support our changing business needs. Just recently, we implemented cloud-based tools for our merchandisers who are responsible for in-store visits so they can ensure that products are properly displayed and promoted.

We integrated a cloud-based application on mobile devices, and within months, merchandisers had a very practical and easy-to-use solution. In a traditional environment, this would have taken much longer and cost much more.

This is more than just an infusion of new technology; it’s an opportunity for a leadership shift. New capabilities like this allow leaders to shift our focus from merely managing lifecycles and environments to continuously responding to ever-changing business strategies, transforming businesses, strengthening governance and providing value to our organizations.

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