I had an interesting discussion the other day with a fellow marketing manager about cloud and business transformation. The conversation centered around whether or not cloud was a discussion that should begin within the IT department, or should it come from the C-level down. It’s a great question, because as much as I like to think it’s a top-down discussion, it really comes down to the fact that cloud will affect the IT department in several ways, including a fundamental redesign of the IT department as a whole. Let me explain.
When you talk to C-level executives about what they are trying to accomplish with their business, it really depends on which department they represent. CFOs want to reduce operating costs, move away from owning depreciating assets, moving from Capex to Opex models, and streamlining business processes. CMOs (Marketing folks) want to get better market insight from their campaigns, understand how their brand is doing and how they can increase market share. CEOs want to do more with less and keep up to industry trends so that they can remain competitive in their markets. The problem is that if it takes them 2-3 years for them to start implementing these new technologies and methodologies, it’s not going to be as beneficial to them. This is why cloud is so interesting to them.
The problem is that when it comes to making all these strategies happen, it’s the IT team that is called to bat. The problem that they are in such isolation, busy with day-to-day operations of the organization, that they have no idea where these ideas originate from. By the time the requests get down to them it’s in such a state of craziness that they feel the brunt of having to respond quickly with half the information and none of the resources required. This is where cloud suddenly turns into an outsourcing conversation, instead of an enablement conversation.
The key problem with the cloud model from a business perspective is that it quickly becomes 2 isolated conversations. At the high level, it’s a business transformation conversation. At the IT level, it’s all about technology. It’s never a collaboration between the 2, and this is why everything is more complicated. But it’s not the fault of sales, it’s a fundamental problem of the fact that IT has always been treated as a box-pushing cost centre. There is very little understanding and involvement in the larger corporate mission. They simply don’t understand how everything is meant to fit together because they are never involved in the high-level strategy discussions.
So what can we do to fix this? Well, it really comes down to re-thinking about how the IT department is organized. Take a look at everyone in the organization and their skillsets. You need to really take an inventory and think about designing a team environment that focuses on building and supporting the cloud platform; hardware and software that delivers the cloud services. Half the team should be focused on building the environment that delivers the services and makes sure it’s available and able to support the organization’s objectives. The second team focuses on creating the services themselves, working very closely with all areas of the organization to ensure that their goals are achieved through these services. If there are gaps in what resources are available and what is needed, this is the team that recommends the right solutions, internal or external to fix these gaps.
If you have these 2 teams supporting your organization, it’s no longer a conversation about if cloud is IT or Business Strategy. Cloud is suddenly the way the organization is going to deliver value for its customers. IT is the backbone required to help the organization meet these commitments.