This is the third and final part in a three-part post on how Cloud Computing can provide a fast path to “IT Renewal.”

What is IT Renewal?

In the first post in this series, I discussed how information and technology are becoming ever more central to what an organization does and how it does it and how consumer technology is beginning to have a dramatic impact on enterprise IT. I referred to the actions an IT organization takes in response to these changes as “IT Renewal.”

In Part 2, I described three major opportunities for Cloud Computing to accelerate IT renewal:

  1. Finding and validating new business opportunities.
  2. Improving existing business capabilities.
  3. Transforming how IT capabilities are managed and deployed.

I wrapped up the second post focusing on opportunity #3 from the list, arguing that IT Management is becoming a distributed activity that exhibits many of the characteristics of complex systems, where:

  • Organization is a natural, spontaneous act;
  • Emergent structure trumps imposed hierarchy and control;
  • Creativity arises from variety and randomness;
  • Relationships, porous boundaries, free flows of information and self-reference are essential to survival and growth.

These complex system characteristics lend themselves to the use of collaborative approaches to managing IT work – what I referred to as the “Five C’s” of Information Management.

The “Five C’s” of Information Management

As the management of information and technology becomes increasingly distributed and complex, five types of management activity emerge as important to the way work is done:

  1. Collaborating
  2. Coordinating
  3. Connecting
  4. Co-creating
  5. Coalescing

Enabling the “Five C’s” in the Cloud

Because each of these activities is increasingly being conducted across time and space and across organizational boundaries, enabling them through flexible, scalable cloud solutions becomes an attractive proposition.

As an example, I’m currently working with a client who is refining their IT Operating Model so as to enable a new, growth-oriented business-IT strategy. They had determined that they wanted to support their IT work and forge stronger business relationships using Microsoft SharePoint. However, they are currently on SharePoint 2007 and recognized that they needed to move to SharePoint 2010 as their preferred collaboration and knowledge management platform. However, the upgrades to servers, licenses and related IT infrastructure was going to take 3-4 months, and a significant capital outlay. But, they did not want to lose the momentum they had already established in developing the new business-IT strategy.

As an alternative, we were able to set them up with a cloud-hosted SharePoint 2010 instance over one weekend, with zero capital outlay, and a very modest monthly cost that scales with the number of users, and therefore with the value delivered. Now, they are creating new levels of organizational clarity, establishing a continuously improving IT Operating Model, and experiencing new ways of working – collaborating, coordinating, connecting, co-creating and coalescing, against a set of Cloud-based software services.

Let’s take each of these in turn and see how they can help you “manage IT in the cloud.”

Collaborating on IT Work

Much IT work is performed through teams – increasingly distributed across geographies, organizations and time zones. This change forces a shift in work management from a document-centric (write-attach-email-review-attach-email, repeat ad infinitum) to a more collaborative Wiki-based approach, which has significant advantages:

  • Wiki’s are inherently non-linear and encourage a ‘constructive informality’ that improves quality over time, drives organizational clarity and reduces or eliminates redundancy and contradictions. Wiki’s (well-managed!) let you stop wondering, “Is this the latest version? What was changed since the last version?”
  • Wiki’s encourage multi-author collaboration. Whereas the typical document-centric approach has one or two main authors with everyone else in a review role, Wiki’s encourage a more collaborative approach to authoring – with higher engagement and understanding in the content.
  • A Wiki approach dramatically simplifies search and discovery. The ability to hyperlink, tag, and use a well-factored semantic Wiki leads to content that is far more accessible, intelligible and searchable for all stakeholders.
  • There are many good Wiki products available as SaaS, including SharePoint, Confluence, and MediaWiki.

Coordinating Activities in Time and Space

As IT work becomes more distributed, the need to coordinate activities in time and space becomes both increasingly important and challenging. And again, SaaS offerings are ideally suited to helping distributed teams coordinate their activities, including:

  • Real-time communication and collaboration – e.g., IM, Google Wave
  • Collaborative Project Management – e.g., Bamboo, BaseCamp
  • Desktop videoconferencing – e.g., Go To Meeting, WebEx

Connecting People and Ideas

The need to identify and connect people and ideas is important to innovation and learning. As IT work becomes more distributed, cloud-based SaaS solutions become effective ways of connecting people and ideas, through tools such as:

  • Social Networking – e.g., FaceBook, LinkedIn, Plaxo
  • Mind Mapping – e.g., MindMeister, WebBrain, Bubbl.us
  • Virtual Electronic Whiteboards – e.g., FlockDraw, Colabopad
  • Social Network Analysis – e.g., Netminer, InFlow
  • Innovation James – roll your own using a combination of cloud-based services

Co-Creating Experiences

As business and IT converge, opportunities emerge to co-create experiences with customers, consumers, suppliers, business partners, etc. New types of SaaS solutions for co-creation include:

  • Modeling and Simulation – e.g., Creately, FlexSim, Second Life
  • Prototyping – e.g., iRise, Dreamweaver
  • Virtual Worlds – e.g., Second Life, There.com (currently closed)

Coalescing Around Ideas and Reaching Consensus on Decisions

With the increasing distribution of IT work comes the need to poll stakeholders, tap into sentiment, coalesce around ideas and reach consensus around decisions. And new approaches and supporting tools emerging into this space, including:

  • Polling – e.g., Survey Monkey, Kluster, IdeaScale
  • Group Decision Making – e.g., Resolve
  • Prediction Markets – e.g., NewsFutures

Summary

One the one hand, the increasing complexity of the world of IT management, and the convergence between the work of professional IT organizations and their customers and consumers can seem like a daunting challenge for IT leaders – a threat to the order, security and stability they have worked so hard to achieve over the last 50 years of enterprise computing. On the other hand, the shift to the “information prosumer” and the distribution of IT work is forcing a new way of managing IT activities – across organizational boundaries, across geographies and across cultures.

Just as these shifts are taking place, the Internet as a computing platform and the rise of Web 2.0 and 3.0 capabilities promise a new set of rapidly evolving tools – available as Web services – accessible from mobile devices – and affordable by even the smallest business or even the individual consumer.

I believe these Cloud-based IT management capabilities offer a way for IT leaders to step ahead – to take the lead in learning how to deploy and take advantage of these services – and help to drive business-IT convergence for their organizations.

Illustration courtesy of Suzanne Lebeda at Adirondack Artists’ Guild

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