How Do CIOs Develop a Business-Centric Cloud Strategy?
Rackspace recently worked with CIO UK to produce a series of articles looking at how CIOs can develop and implement agendas that drive modernisation and technology transformation across organisations.
This article explores challenges in deploying cloud, and how CIOs can develop centralised high-level strategies that tie everything together, thereby de-risking deployments and accelerating cloud-based business transformation plans.
Cloud computing is well into its second decade and it has moved from a commodity proposition to a key enabler for business transformation at organisations large and small. It offers organisation rapid access to the most innovative technologies and the ability to build and deploy new applications rapidly at scale.
But cloud also brings with it considerable challenges, particularly for organisation that were not ‘born digital’ – those with roots reaching back further than the last decade.
Deploying cloud creates significant shifts in roles and responsibilities within an organisation that can result in operational gaps or overlap, can bring in new stakeholders to technology dialogue and can make some working practices redundant.
Typically, it requires a new organisational mindset and new business processes to fully realise its benefits and value, and these impact departments across the organisation, from finance and procurement to marketing and HR.
Creating a dynamic cloud strategy
It is commonplace for CEOs and company boards to talk about making their organisation a ‘cloud first’ or ‘cloud only’ business, but the task for the CIO and other business leaders is to develop a centralised high-level cloud strategy which ties everything together.
The aim, says David Cearley, research vice president and fellow at analysts Gartner, should be to ‘standardise cloud strategy across an organisation, while allowing for an approach that will meet the unique needs of different use cases and business units.’
Clearly, this is not easy. Lauren E Nelson, principal analyst at Forrester warns, ‘despite cloud's popularity, common misunderstandings plague organisations and create strife between IT and the business.’ Even when organisations get it right, says Nelson, ‘don't expect your business users to care.’ They just want the tools to get the job done.
Organisations that are successfully embedding cloud across their business do three things well:
- They understand the role of cloud and are clear about their expectations
- They have engaged stakeholders across the business
- They take a service-driven approach to cloud consumption and its guiding principles.
Getting this right is essential if you are to standardise your adoption and consumption of cloud services. It will also ensure that the benefits of cloud-based innovation you and your business unit leaders will inevitably want to introduce in future, can be deployed to best effect.
You will need to ask tough questions and have tough discussion with everyone from the C-suite to customer facing front line staff. But if you focus on the following questions across five key areas, you will be able to de-risk your cloud deployments and accelerate your cloud-based business transformation plans:
Understand your strategic drivers and objectives
How does your cloud vision connect to your business objectives? Can you structure and prioritise the benefits you are looking to achieve? Do you have a clear view of risks, issues and challenges?
Assess the impact of cloud on your business
Do you have the right data available to you to make decisions? Do you understand your user requirements? How do they differ? Where are they the same? Can you establish a clear as-is view of your current application landscape and operational practices? How does that differ from your to-be vision?
Build a high-level business case
Do you have a clear understanding of the costs and benefits contributing to your current ROI? Are you able to model future spend & resource allocation? How straightforward will it be to evaluate transformation value?
Do you have a clear roadmap for your application, middleware and infrastructure environments? Does your operating model need to evolve to accommodate the planned change? Can you break down your plans into a time lined key initiatives roadmap? Do you know what success looks like?
Identify opportunities for ongoing functional improvement, development and modernisation
Does your strategy include the flexibility to accommodate new business initiatives and technical change? Do you have a clear decision-making process, criteria and policies in place to govern planning, deployment, operation, control and management of your cloud capability? Do you have an architecture framework and principles in place to help you derisk and future proof your environments?
Getting a fresh set of eyes
CIOs seeking to drive cloud-based digital transformation of their organisation need to combine strong leadership with far sighted business and technology vision and they need to build around them a team excited by the prospect of change.
However, going it alone when formulating and validating a strategy is tough. Many enterprises need help pulling together all the component parts and will benefit from a fresh perspective, says Layla Marshall, senior manager with cloud service and consulting provider Rackspace.
External consulting experts like Rackspace, ‘help you define the role of cloud in your business and apply their experience to shape an impartial view of your relative maturity or readiness. They also provide the velocity and momentum to prevent your programmes from stalling or stagnating, ensuring you realise the promise of cloud and deliver strong ROI.
‘The line between business and technology is becoming increasingly blurred,’ she adds. ‘Creating engagement, alignment and shared responsibility across different organisation functions is almost the toughest cloud challenge. Having an independent expert to help you build a governance and decision-making framework will pay dividends as you mature your ability to consume cloud.’
Getting your cloud strategy right and keeping it aligned to business requirements is a major challenge for all organisations. The benefits are enormous, but the risks of getting it wrong are also considerable.
Decisive leadership from the CIO and technology team, combined with input from the right strategic partners will ensure you and your organisation are well-placed for what is a complex, challenging but ultimately exciting future.
Click here to learn more about how Rackspace can help you build your cloud strategy and realise your cloud transformation goals.