CIOs, Cloud Transformation and That Vision Thing

cloud transformationIt is a tad ironic that marketing and communications will make or break many enterprise cloud transformation efforts. Needless to say most IT professionals weren’t drawn to the job because they wanted to market and sell technology.

Based on what we’re seeing 2014 does seem to be emerging as the year that IT rolls up the sleeves and figures out how to integrate cloud into the mainstream IT portfolio. Many IT executives now appear to be believers, after spending the last 12-18 months on IaaS pilots, proof of concepts and limited scope deployments with public, private and hybrid cloud models. For many enterprises this is leading to broader, wide scale efforts to drive cloud-enabled IT transformation, or at least develop an overall roadmap.

Getting cloud transformation right is going to be critical, but not for the reasons most believe. At the end of the day, cloud is going to be critical to the enterprise not as a destination, but instead as an enabler. There are two major reasons why:

  • Business Strategy – through lowering the cost and risk of experimentation and by dramatically accelerating time to market, cloud is changing the nature of business strategy. Cloud makes is more effective and efficient to launch a new application, service or offer to market and rapidly iterate and improve to align with customer needs. Compare this to doing months of market research and analysis before investing in development of a service or offer that may or may not hit the mark.  The flexibility and agility of cloud platforms makes it far more efficient to test, learn and iterate which also will place a new emphasis on innovation and speed to market.  Financial services and retail are two big examples of this today.
  • Complementary Platforms – cloud is also a critical enabler and accelerator for mobility, DevOps / continuous release models as well as Big Data. While cloud isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for these platforms, it can dramatically accelerate the ease of deployment, use and impact of each. Think about the critical role that cloud plays in enabling mobile applications, or the impact that cloud-based services are having on big data adoption. Cloud transformation will be critical not just for the inherent benefits of the platforms themselves, but also to enable and accelerate a broader set of next generation IT capabilities.

For many enterprises, cloud transformation is going to be a “make or break” proposition.  And while a number of factors will be important in driving this transformation, internal marketing and communications will be critical.  Internal stakeholders and users will need to have a clear understanding of where, how and why the organization is driving wide scale cloud transformation.  Why is this important?

  • The Art of the Possible – educating business stakeholders around the new found agility and flexibility they can now enjoy with public, private or hybrid cloud platforms only goes part of the way. Some will connect the dots around how to use these capabilities to drive innovation and growth, many will not. Without a framework for understanding how models can and should be leveraged in their industry or organization, many business users will have no clear idea what to do next with the new tools provided. Net, net they need to understand what the new art of the possible is.
  • FUD Elimination – much of the fear that many enterprise IT pros have around cloud isn’t driven by the fact that a new technology and platform has arrived. It instead is driven by a fear of not knowing what comes next, and what they’ll need to do to adapt. Clarity around a direction and vision for cloud transformation helps eliminate uncertainty. While not everyone will make the leap to cloud, and least they’ll know the expectations and “rules of the game”.  In many cases this will help reduce the natural resistance to change many CIOS are facing.   
  • Talent Attraction and Retention – needless to say, most next generation IT skills are hard to find. Anyone who says otherwise hasn’t tried looking for a DevOps / AWS engineer recently.  Winning the war for this kind of talent will require strong, clear and visible commitment to true transformation by IT leadership.

So what do CIOs need to do to get this right?

  1. Educate – first, CIOs need to educate business and IT stakeholders around the fundamentals of the cloud. This isn’t about explaining what, Amazon AWS, or a private cloud does – at this point almost everyone will have at least a rudimentary understanding. Instead, organizations need to have a shared, common understanding and vernacular for discussing cloud and sources of business value. This is critical not just for unlocking opportunities, but also properly aligning expectations around what cloud will and will not do.
  2. Lead – second, CIOs need to have a vision for what cloud will enable for their organization.  Which services and platforms? Why?  What is the strategic and business rationale? What do they mean to me as a business stakeholder?  Painting a clear and compelling vision for cloud transformation is critical to driving adoption, and also to avoiding the dreaded scenario of a new private cloud that ends up only 30% utilized.  After years of casting a skeptical eye towards cloud, IT leaders now lead to explain why they’re now on board, why it’s important, and why the business should believe them.
  3. Market and Sell – finally, CIOs need to have an internal marketing and communications program for “selling” their vision.  As any marketer will tell you, a successful rollout or launch is not a “fire and forget” mission. CIOs need to have a ongoing approach for communicating the value of cloud and next generation IT transformation to their organization, and metrics for measuring impact and success.

Cloud is more about business transformation than it is technology, which makes it different than client / server, the internet, and other waves of change that have hit enterprise IT. Communicating the impact of this change to business and IT stakeholders will likely be a key success factor for CIOs in 2014.

Want to learn more about how Leverhawk can help you take the first step in launch an internal Cloud Transformation?  Check out the overview for our Cloud Fundamentals Workshop.

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