The role-playing game: How enterprise IT should prepare for cloud adoption

The role-playing game: How enterprise IT should prepare for cloud adoption
Paul Moxon, Senior Director, Product & Solutions Marketing at Axway

By Paul Moxon, Senior Director, Product & Solutions Marketing

I’m often asked, “What’s the biggest thing standing in the way of enterprise IT getting on board with cloud adoption?”

My response is always the same: “The biggest thing standing in the way of enterprise IT cloud adoption is IT’s unwillingness to accept that business units (BUs) are already adopting the cloud.”

By 2012, BUs are eager to flout IT authority and circumvent IT constraints in order to solve problems now rather than see their requests languish in IT’s backlog of special projects, hostage to unreasonable wait times.

Those days are over.

IT now has two options: Get on board or get left behind.

I’m seeing this exact scenario in our customer organisations as well. Customer BUs approach IT seeking solutions, without ever involving IT in the preliminary decision making process. They prefer instead to drag IT in at the very end and inform them of what is going to happen, rather than consult them about what may happen.

IT’s role has changed, whether they choose to recognise it or not. Their long-standing position as “policy police,” arbiter of good taste in applications, judge over whether an application requires IT policy and corporate security standards or not – it’s all coming to an end. 

IT must face the fact that BUs are increasingly adopting the cloud, and support that move by:

  • Becoming more aligned with the BUs and their goals;
  • Providing security in the cloud;
  • Managing service level agreements with cloud providers;
  • Following escalation procedures;
  • Advising the BUs on how – not whether – to adopt the cloud. 

“Advise” is the key word here: no more forbidding or demanding. That era is over.

What IT can and should do is intelligently comment on a BU’s choice of cloud provider rather than try to approve or block adoption (it’s this latter behavior that is inspiring BUs to cut IT out of the preliminary decision making).

My message to IT? Don’t interpret this new world as being “put in your place.”

Instead, take a page from the book of another department that was once considered a dubious expense that added little value to the BUs, but is today their trusted partner and adviser: Human Resources.

A common tactic among HR departments now is to assign individual personnel to specific BUs so that HR can become aligned with the unique needs of each BU (recruiting, downsizing, and so on).

This is precisely what IT should do, and in the process recognise that as advisers instead of arbiters, the people skills of the assignees will trump their technical skills.

For instance, the ability to negotiate and influence will be the new gold standard. There will be no more pounding on the table and forcing policy adoption down the BUs’ throats; instead, IT will advise on selection criteria, deployment, and ramp-up issues; best practices about appropriate escalation procedures; and strategies for integrating a new cloud solution into existing systems and processes. 

And it’s this last item – integration – that will be the big issue as cloud adoption ramps up.

New cloud solutions will need to integrate with existing applications and business processes because, if they don’t, BUs will end up with stand-alone, siloed applications that can’t leverage the full potential of the application’s promise – whether the application is in the cloud or on-premise.

Infact, the smartest thing IT can and should do now is to formulate a comprehensive integration strategy that covers both cloud and on-premise applications.

To position themselves optimally, IT will have to be ready to answer questions like, “How would a cloud-based CRM system integrate with an on-premise production-scheduling system?” or “How would a transportation logistics company integrate its CRM system with an on-premise route-optimisation system?” You get the picture.

But be advised – don’t wait for cloud adoption to start getting your house in order.

If IT stays in reactive mode as BUs make cloud decisions, they’ll end up with “integration” minus “strategy”. Applications will be integrated on an ad hoc, project-by-project basis, creating a proliferation of point-to-point connections that is a repeat of the fragile, “spaghetti” integrations of the past.

IT must act now to get ahead of the curve – meaning ahead of BU demand – defining a solid integration strategy before the cloud apps start building out (or as early in that process as possible).

Does moving to the cloud mean that IT will lose some control? Yes. But I challenge them to be big-minded about it: Support BU adoption of the cloud, embrace your new role, shed your service-manager chrysalis and spread your trusted-adviser wings.

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