Federal Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Rain

The Future is a Little Cloudy

Almost every IT organization is looking toward a future where more and more of their infrastructure moves into the cloud. Unfortunately, many of these organizations will stumble on their way to the cloud. The problem is often one of understanding the opportunity and how it maps to your business. Even more fundamentally the problem can be a misunderstanding of how IT should work for your organization. I think one of the biggest changes that is coming to complex organizations is that IT is going to become fundamentally about providing services to the organization. As such it will once again be measured on the outcomes it provides–exactly like every other organizational resource.

This may be a bigger shift than you think because for years IT managers have played the complexity card for so many years that in many organizations the “business” has learned its place. They’ve gone through long deployment cycles, built costly custom applications and lived with the enormous costs of dedicated on premise infrastructure. Every time the business complained they were told they just don’t understand, or that the reason was “complicated.” I believe that some of the slow adoption we see in the cloud is related to the fear some IT managers have in giving up the “complicated” card. The problem for these managers is that the cat is out of the bag. People’s lives are being changed every day by services that live in the cloud and securely interact with people. At some point they are going to stop believing that this same level of capability isn’t possible at work.

If external public cloud solutions are evaluated side by side with in house solutions there is a fear that the in house solutions will come up short and thereby lose the confidence of the business. This is a real possibility given the maturity of some cloud solutions, the inherent advantage they have in achieving scales of economy and the benefits of having in many cases thousands of clients to have developed best practice in a particular domain area.

That isn’t to say on premise can’t win. Some things may simply be judged as too sensitive to perform outside of the business, have legal requirements that prevent movement to the cloud or simply be so custom to the business that there is no cloud model that is applicable. This is becoming fewer and farther in between. Mature cloud environments like those at Amazon, Google and Salesforce provide incredible robust enabling everything from plug and place applications to highly configurable and customizable infrastructure environments.

For IT managers the trick is in transitioning to providing advice on when to use these various models when to provision internally and serving as an honest broker between internal and external services. I’ve seen a lot of adversarial meetings where internal IT resources advocate against cloud solutions in a way that sounds a lot more like they are supporting their internal product rather than serving as a trusted advisor counseling the business on the choices they have for solutions.

IT organizations that fail to take on this trusted advisor role may find themselves losing the trust of the business followed closely by the business of the business. Don’t put yourself in this predicament. The forecast for the future is cloudy. Positioning your organization as a trusted advisor capable of understanding the tradeoffs that are a part of organizational success in the cloud.

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