IT chiefs from INC Research, Printpack and Xerox explore how cloud adoption is enhancing their dialog with the business.
The growth of cloud-based services may have made it easier for line-of-business and other non-IT executives to source applications without the involvement of their technology colleagues. But recent research conducted by market analyst firm the 451 Group highlights how such ‘shadow IT’ is less prevalent than anecdotal evidence might suggest. Indeed, when it comes to cloud investment it looks like CIOs and their teams are still very much in the driving seat.
The survey of almost 1,000 businesses, undertaken on behalf of US telco Verizon, found that more than four-fifths of spend on cloud services is still managed by the IT department and that 62% of that investment has the direct involvement of the CIO.
The very notion of shadow IT, say the report’s authors, relies on the contentious idea that the IT department actively seeks to stand in the way of the business. According to this flawed thinking the CIO loves to say ‘no,’ even to ideas that could make the business more agile and help it take advantage of business opportunities.
The 451 analysts disagree strongly: “In reality, few of the IT leaders that we’ve spoken to have ever wanted to hold the business back or stymie innovation. If they ever showed any hesitation in seizing the opportunity that cloud presented it was only [as a result of their] reasoned caution about exposing the business to compliance issues, security breaches and other risks.”
That view will set many CIO heads nodding in agreement. Driving value for the business is as much a part of the role as examining different deployment options to find the best fit. And as cloud technologies mature many CIOs say they are enjoying a new, deeper level of conversation, both with their colleagues in the business and with their cloud providers.
Here, three leading CIOs describe how they're taking the lead on cloud conversations.
CIO, INC Research
Contract research service provider to the pharmaceutical industry
Cloud services are really starting to change the dialog we have with the business. Since mid-2014 we have been investing heavily in our IT governance committee. We now make certain that it’s not just the C-level that’s represented, but one level down, too. Representation from line-of-business leadership enables us to do a good job of hearing, ahead of time, what people are thinking about and then to listen to what they’re actually asking us for.
That dialog has been almost like the growth of an internal social network, allowing us to get input from more than just a few ‘points of presence.’ We can take that and figure it into our planning. And because of our use of managed cloud services we can concentrate more on delivery and less on infrastructure needs.
Using cloud cuts out the entire phase of having to think about infrastructure [questions]: how much do I need? Where do I need it? What ‘ping-power’ will I require? The entire conversation around the engineering goes away and is replaced with a conversation with the business or customer about when they can start using a service and what training might be required.
We can now deliver on an asset that’s needed in our business faster than ever before. That’s been very positive for us because we secure the resource, the business gets to work and revenue is generated. That’s important to the business — and to us.
Director of IT, Printpack
Supplier of packaging to consumer foods sector
IT at Printpack is a very lean organization. Our tribal knowledge has served us well over the years but we’ve grown to a point now where we need to consider all sorts of options as our business changes. Partnering with a cloud provider allows us to dip into deep expertise, with people who have seen it all before, done it all before and are able to make recommendations. So partnering with a cloud provider has changed my role.
Some of the best discussions I’ve had internally [on cloud] have been with our risk management group. The conversation has gone beyond just IT security risk. For example, they now understand that by using cloud we don’t have the risk of training someone up for three or four years and then have them quit, leaving us scrambling to support [key] business services. Not having to worry about where my staffing levels are going to be next year, where I’m going to find the talent to run the business, is a huge risk-mitigation benefit for us.
But what I would also say to any CIO is this: if there are processes in your department that are already out of control don’t think you can get those under control with a move to managed cloud services. Don’t go there. You need to have some level of structure and control around your internal processes before you even think about cloud.
With cloud, there’s also a change that has to happen on both [the customer and provider] sides. New expectations have to be set and met. That has everything to do with helping your cloud partner understand your business better, and trying your best to understand their business better so that you can agree on a relationship that works best for both of you.
Document technology and business service outsourcing
I have many conversations [with colleagues] around the world and the cloud conversation gives me a bit of a headache. I look at the complexity of the environment we have at Xerox, and when people say, ‘We’re going to the cloud,’ my eyes glaze over.
I see cloud as more of a deployment option, one among many. I certainly understand the value of cloud but given where we are today it still takes a fair amount of time to decide what the best implementation is for us.
In the case of human capital management (HCM), it was a no-brainer to use a cloud service. [Xerox is currently implementing Oracle Fusion HCM]. But given the complexities of our existing ERP environment, which is highly integrated with a lot of legacy systems, it isn’t obvious to me that adding [other] cloud apps in the middle of all that is going to drive a lot of value for us.
We see a cost opportunity [with cloud], but what I don’t want to do is add new integration costs. I’ve been in this business a long time and I’ve seen a lot of technologies come and go. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I’m spinning around in a tornado with all these new technologies showing up [that I can] reach out and grab. There are choices, but cloud is just one of those.
• Jonathan Shough, Steve Cavanaugh, Stephen Little were speaking at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco.