This is the second in a three-part post on how Cloud Computing can provide a fast path to “IT Renewal.”  (Note:  This post was originally written for the Cloud Commons).

Why 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. I further argued that consumer technology is beginning to have a dramatic impact on enterprise IT – no big news unless you’ve been hibernating for a few years!

With the increasing significance of information and IT, the rapid spread of consumer IT and continued economic doldrums, business leaders are scrambling for any edge they can find to drive business growth and innovation, while keeping costs under control. It’s not just the consumer technologies (e.g., smart phones, tablet computers, sensors) being recognized as potential tools in the competitive battles for customers – it’s also the new workforce with their comfort with IT and expectations for new ways of working (e.g., instant messaging, presence computing, mobile everything.)

How The Cloud can Accelerate Renewal

So, why might Cloud Computing represent an important vehicle for delivering IT services? I see at least 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.

Let’s take these in turn and explore how Cloud Computing might fit into your situation.

Finding and Validating New Business Opportunities

Cloud-based services make it relatively easy for a business to experiment with new products, services and even new business models. Not having to procure or build costly infrastructure can reduce or even eliminate capital outlay. It can speed time to market and ensure future flexibility as market conditions and competitive responses change.

Short lead times, the ability to more closely align costs with benefits and the flexibility to scale up or down as needed represent an attractive value proposition for those wanting to explore the unknown. And an added attraction for using the Cloud to explore new business opportunities is that the need to integrate with existing systems and data will typically be less than that associated with replacing or upgrading existing solutions.

Improving Business Capabilities

This can be a more challenging play than the renewal situation above due to the need for interfaces to existing systems. But it can still represent a worthwhile approach, especially if current capabilities are lacking. If you’ve been diligent about Service Oriented Architecture, interfacing legacy applications with Cloud services should not present a significant challenge. If you’ve been proactive around business analytics and data warehousing, again, building necessary data interfaces should not be a reason to break a real sweat.

However, if you are behind the curve on SOA and business analytics, moving existing solutions to the Cloud might be more challenging. On the other hand, now might be a good time to catch up with the state of the art, and see what you’ve been missing in modernizing and virtualizing existing systems.

Transforming How IT Capabilities are Managed and Deployed

This is the Cloud play I am personally most excited by for several reasons:

  • Traditionally, true to the “cobbler’s child” syndrome, IT organizations are typically quite lacking in their own use of IT – managing IT capabilities and assets via Excel spreadsheets, email and lots and lots of meetings!
  • As I’ve noted before, moving to the Cloud is inevitable – the only question for CIO’s and the IT professionals that report to them is, “Will we lead the shift or be left in the dark while our business clients and customers race to the Cloud?” Leveraging the Cloud for internal IT purposes is one way of getting ahead of the game, at least in terms of learning and experience.
  • I believe the nature of IT work, with its complexity and knowledge intensiveness, lends itself to a more collaborative and networked approach, which in turn lends itself to a Cloud-based platform.

So, how can IT organizations leverage Cloud services for internal use? First, we should recognize that as business and IT converge, the management of IT assets and capabilities is becoming both more complex and more distributed.

IT Management as a Distributed Activity

Roles that were traditionally held by IT professionals, such as business analytics and application configuration are devolving into the business units. IT professionals are assuming new roles such as sourcing management, information brokering and enterprise architects. Alvin Toffler, in his remarkable 1980 book The Third Wave, postulated that the separation of production from consumption was an unnatural act, and that technology would over time enable us all to become ‘prosumers’ – producing ourselves what we needed to consume. The Cloud truly opens the door to the age of the Information Prosumer.

IT Management as a Complex Activity

As IT management expands beyond the traditional roles of the IT professional to the emerging roles of Information Prosumers, the complexity of our IT environments is increasing. How can we turn the increasing complexity of the IT environment to our advantage?

The study of complex systems offers some important insights into this question. It teaches us, for example, that organization is a natural, spontaneous act and that emergent structure trumps imposed hierarchy and control. It reveals that creativity arises from variety and randomness. It highlights the importance of relationships, porous boundaries, free flows of information and self-reference.

These clues point us to what I refer to as the “Five C’s” of Information Management – Collaborating, Coordinating, Connecting, Co-creating, and Coalescing. And these Five C’s, it turns out, are ideally suited to Cloud-based services.

In the next and final part of this short series, we will drill into the Five C’s of Information Management, and how Cloud Computing represents a fast path to realizing these characteristics.


Image courtesy of Forex Learning Journal


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