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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Are We Ready for Cloud?

I can appreciate that anyone reading this title will ask – what do you mean are we ready for Cloud, it’s in the market already, the market has been speaking about it for years, even in your own blog Nathan you have been talking about this? No I haven’t had memory loss – yet -  but this blog will look at a broader context of Cloud Computing.

Many businesses are already experimenting with Cloud solutions either for testing, extending data storage or generally preparing for cloud migration. However are we really ready for this change and what are the impacts it will have on our way of working? I hear many businesses talking about preparing to move their ICT into the cloud, but what does this truly mean? That their IT department has validated the systems they are choosing to use in a virtual environment or does it mean that an organization has understood that moving ICT into the cloud is as serious and potentially disruptive as any business transformation?

There seems to be a growing view that Cloud Computing will deliver cost savings to a business’s ICT spend and based on many industry reviews this seems to be accurate, at least at first. From a starting position when migrating to cloud computing businesses will most likely see an improvement in their IT and Communications spend through increased scalability; however the challenges occur when businesses are seeking to leverage the benefits of virtualization across their supply chain and their internal processes which tend to take longer to materialize in any type of transformation project.

Anyone who has undergone an internal transformation will know there are three key aspects to any business change, these are – People, Process and Systems. It is interesting to note that when considering a shift to cloud computing, businesses seem increasingly comfortable and aware of the “Systems” implications. However during a cloud migration businesses are not paying the same level of attention to People and Process, these two areas are of particular importance in an era of globalization and connected business environments. Through globalization many businesses today have staff/resources distributed around the world, either through driving efficiencies, optimizing costs or to ensure close engagement with the end customer. The People aspect of change brought about by Cloud computing needs to capture not only the impact of latency tolerance for people to access systems, but also ease of use, language, local vs. central support and managing legal and regulatory changes where people are located. Equally, a business’s processes increasingly tend to include other organizations as they no longer tend to manage from design to implementation to in life support without input from other partner’s, suppliers or even customers. These developments require greater governance and adaptability to change, something which businesses may not have had to consider in a static ICT environment where changing a vendor or system had a more limited impact to the business.

This is not meant to be a warning against the benefits of virtualisation - aka Cloud Computing, but to make sure that as a business community we look at the transition to Cloud Computing as being as broad and potentially impactful as any business transformation we have undergone or are considering. Whilst many are looking at the short term gains that cloud computing can offer, it is actually the longer term benefits of cloud computing which are more exciting as these can lead to greater business agility, a shift in aligning business performance with supplier cost and creating a working environment for business led innovation.

I am sure many out there who will read this and think I am over complicating something which is simply a managed service, yet the goal for any business must be how to drive sustainable growth, in a market where the only constant is change. It is therefore important to ensure any project is providing a path to sustainable growth, there must be a longer term set of measures for success, such as identifying efficiency benefits through unit utilization (staff or resources), or being able to demonstrate increased alignment between the pull of business requirement and the push of ICT costs, resulting in reduced bench cost and greater business agility.

Are we ready for Cloud Computing, the answer remains yes - surprised right? -, although it might sound odd with what I have just outlined, but as businesses we do have the means with which to ensure a successful migration to cloud based working environments, we need only make sure we treat this as a business change not only a technology shift. All businesses have been through some form of transformation in their business, whether that is to adapt to the market, seek out new opportunities or drive business optimization we need to refresh our learning’s from these projects to ensure a path to the outcome we are looking for in the longer term with Cloud Computing. As with any Transformation we must keep in mind the three factors of people, process and system whilst maintaining a forward looking view on the benefits to a sustainable growth outlook all the while keeping in mind the age old saying – Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!

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