(Note:  This post was originally written for the Cloud Commons).

This is the first in a multi-part post on what I’m referring to as “IT Renewal.”  Some people call this “IT Transformation” or “IT Transition”. Others don’t name it – they just do it as a natural part of how they run and continuously improve the ‘business of IT.’

The Convergence of Consumer IT and Business IT

Information and technology are becoming ever more central to what a company (or government, or any organization) does and how it does it. IT for the consumer world (think iPhones, iPads, Kindles, Facebook, eBay, and so on) and IT for the business world are converging. After all, business people are consumers, their customers are consumers, and how we navigate our personal lives spills over into our business lives and vice versa. And as the new workers join the workforce, they do so with an IT literacy and a set of expectations about how they will work, collaborate and communicate.

These consumer devices and services not only allow us to do our work in different ways (think mobile, for example), they also allow us to do different types of work (think sentiment analysis – what are our customers, prospects, competitors, et al saying about us? Or location-based marketing. Or participating in communities of interest or practice.)

The Changing Roles of the Corporate IT Organization

The convergence of business and consumer worlds is beginning to have a dramatic impact on corporate IT. Imagine the following scenario.

Mary, a sales and marketing Vice President, approaches her IT organization with a request to implement a CRM solution. “Yes – we can do that. It will take about 2 years to do, but we can’t get to it until next year. And it will cost about $20 Million, give or take 30%.”  Mary then sees an ad for ‘CRM in the cloud’ and calls the vendor. “Yes, we can get you started today. It’s probably best to start with a pilot group, which we can do for $40 per user per month. We can then bring the cost per user down as you scale up the number of users. And you get a 30-day free trial to make sure our solution fits your needs.”

So, what’s Mary going to do? She’s been charged with driving up sales and she’s convinced that a CRM solution is a key tool to do so. Easy choice, right? She goes ahead with the cloud solution. Variations on this scenario are playing out every day. The more visionary IT leaders are partnering with the Mary’s in their companies, and helping them chose the right vendor and deal with issues such as privacy, security, data ownership and so on. The less visionary leaders are in denial – the cloud is a passing fad. Mary’s going ahead with the Cloud solution anyway. The only question is, does she do it behind Corporate IT’s back, or with their blessing, help and guidance?

The Need for IT Renewal

In the previous paragraph, I used the labels ‘more visionary’ and ‘less visionary’. I could have use the terms ‘renewed’ and ‘un-renewed.’ Or, ‘transformed’ and ‘un-transformed’. Progressive IT leadership is working at repositioning the IT organization as a business enabler – no matter how and where IT capabilities are sourced. In many respects, the core IT roles are shifting towards Enterprise Architect and Integrator, rather than manager of data centers and server farms, developers of systems and software and managers of projects. This shift is what I’m referring to as ‘IT Renewal.’

The Cloud is Both a Driver – and an Enabler of IT Renewal

So, the key roles of an IT organization are being changed by the inevitable emergence of the Cloud as an option in the delivery of IT services. Can the IT organization also leverage the Cloud to enable and drive IT Renewal?

The answer is, I believe, a resounding, ‘yes’. And doing so is essential for getting ahead of the curve for all the Mary’s in our companies. When Mary comes to us, the first answer should be, “Yes, Mary – we can help you deploy a CRM solution. We’ve been investigating Cloud solutions for this type of need, and I think there are some very attractive options we can get you started with almost immediately and without massive capital outlays.” Even better, we approached Mary before she approached us, and told her about the potential for a low cost, relatively easy way to boost sales with a CRM capability.

Leverage the Cloud for Things You Can’t Do

I’ve been participating in a series of CIO Forums across the US, sponsored by Microsoft Windows Azure. It’s been a fascinating experience!  Much of the discussion in our panel Q&A’s has been around the challenge of moving legacy systems to the Cloud. While this might be an interesting cost reduction play, the best cases I’m seeing out there are about using the Cloud for things you can’t easily do today (such as helping Mary lift sales with a Cloud-based CRM!) And that is where I believe the path to IT renewal can begin, or, for those who are already on that path, can be accelerated. More in the next post in this series.





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