CIOs making strategic moves to the cloud that involve core infrastructure such as productivity tools, enterprise applications or collaboration capabilities need to be prepared for a new way of thinking and operating. Moving to the cloud isn’t - and shouldn’t be - business as usual. It’s a switch that demands fresh attitudes to procurement, accounting, project management and, more than anything, ways of working.

This is the biggest shift in computing architecture since client/server and inevitably there will be surprises along the way but best practices and case studies are emerging. Based on over a decade of operating with companies moving to the cloud, these can be usefully stilled down to the following:

  1. Communicate. Any change in IT can lead to confusion. You need to have a strong business case for the Board to get buy-in at the highest levels and this support will help Cloud.jpgmute any broader cultural resistance in the long run. The CFO must be educated on a shift that reduces capital expenditure but necessitates a stream of operating expenditure. The IT team must be involved in the process of assessing workloads and processes, and selecting suppliers. Legal counsel might need to be consulted on service-level agreements or data privacy and protection. Procurement will have to be educated about the very different needs with regards to IT spending. Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of winning the support of end-users. With strong education and training programmes, advocacy can be built from the ground-up.

  2. Governance. This applies on two levels. First, CIOs need to ensure that they don’t breach any rules under which they operate by the laws of the land or industry codes. With the cloud, a common concern exists over whether such rules might be breached is where data may travel into other countries or regions or where certain levels of privacy are enshrined. Second, CIOs need to ensure that they have access to usable data in a timely fashion in the event of a change of service provider being required or in the event of a disaster or outage occurring.

  3. Plan. Few organisations will move wholesale to the cloud and most will adopt iterative processes by which more and more valuable systems are migrated. Developing a roadmap of what can move when will help develop your knowledge of operating in the cloud. The plan might also include ancillary factors: might you, for example, consider new types of client devices now that most intelligence will reside offsite?

  4. Report. Once you have deployed cloud it will build significant goodwill - and open the doors to the possibility of further funding - if you can demonstrate return on investment, user satisfaction scores, uptime or other metrics. Share results and show progress.

  5. Socialise. Many companies think of the first three steps as the complete journey when moving to the cloud. In fact it’s just the beginning. Freed of the need to focus on admin chores, CIOs should be able to concentrate on the more enjoyable job of innovating. More broadly, the inherent mobility and collaborative nature of the cloud should liberate staff to work from more locations, share insights and participate in a more social enterprise, reaching out directly to clients, customers, partners and prospects. Organisations that miss out on this, miss the real advantage of the cloud: unfettered access to sharing and open communications.
Most CIOs today will find themselves at some stage of their journeys to the cloud. There will be some snares along the way but those who follow the lessons of pioneers will stand to have the best chance of success. However, this is not purely an IT architectural opportunity but something much more: the chance for technology to act as a catalyst for a new, efficient, highly social and engaged business.

For CIOs who get this and outperform, there will be chances to emerge as change agents and open up new vistas of opportunity in their careers.

Sue Goble is international general manager at IT consultancy Bluewolf

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