Author: Chris Bedi, CIO at ServiceNow
Mark Hurd recently predicted that the cloud will flip the current reality by 2025 whereby we’ll spend 80 percent of IT resources on innovation and only 20 percent on keeping the lights on. I look forward to the day that prediction becomes the reality, but are we really still a decade away from IT reaping the benefits of a cloud shift? Thankfully, the answer is “no.”
According to new survey data from ServiceNow, more than half of enterprises have already entered the cloud-first era, choosing cloud to host new business applications and services as opposed to on-premises data centers. What’s more, in just two years 77 percent of enterprises expect to complete this shift to cloud-first. Given all the hype and predictions about cloud adoption over the years, to see this shift happening much faster than anticipated is a welcome surprise. We can thank the rise of the DevOps philosophy for getting us to this point; 76 percent of survey respondents credit DevOps as the primary driver of the shift to a cloud-first world. Enterprises that embraced DevOps saw early that cloud computing could accelerate the pace of application deployment. And it’s not just developers who have embraced DevOps. Nearly every respondent in the survey, which included IT, DevOps and line of business managers, reported they are involved in some way with the DevOps movement.
So, if we’ve finally reached the cloud tipping point with DevOps leading the way, what does this mean for IT?
We’ve all heard that IT is in danger of becoming obsolete in the cloud era—let the collective eye rolling ensue. Progressive CIOs recognize that the obsolescence of IT stems from fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD). In fact, most of the CIOS that I talk to say IT is needed now more than ever. Those companies that have made the shift to a cloud-first model tend to agree; 72 percent said the cloud-first shift actually made IT more relevant to the business. However, 9 in 10 also said their current IT staff lacked the required skillsets to make this shift.
I don’t want to imply that IT does not need to make some significant changes. We do. More cloud projects will initiate from the bottom up and deploy at a much more rapid pace; we need the skillsets to make sure the cloud-first model delivers real business value to the enterprise and achieves the goals entrusted to IT: business outcomes underpinned by the right security, compliance, performance, and reliability.
In my mind, there are a few areas that CIOs and their IT staff must prioritize when preparing to go cloud-first.
Clear the room of FUD
Fear is a show stopper. CIOs may see the value in migrating 6,000 apps to the cloud in the next two years, but it is a stressful project for the IT workforce. Many will worry about long-term job security. As CIO, it’s your job to address the FUD head-on and get your team on board with the innovation opportunity that cloud-first allows. Show your team that your organization’s cloud-first initiative has executive buy-in, the appropriate resources to successfully execute the strategy and a plan for the new role of IT as innovators moving forward. The IT team wants to do more than keep the lights on; they just need to be shown what spending 80 percent of IT resources on innovation might look like, and feel reassured that they have a safety net.
Align on a cohesive cloud strategy that drives business outcomes
CIOs need to lead their teams to define success as business outcomes. Before moving to a cloud-first approach—or any new major IT initiative—identify the business outcomes you intend to influence. You need to answer the question “why are we moving to the cloud?” Going cloud-first is not a one-size-fits-all, put down a credit card and off you go strategy. Cloud-first means that all of your applications and data will move to the cloud unless there is a compelling reason that they must remain on-premises. It helps to have business-focused roles in IT that can work with the stakeholders to pinpoint how a cloud-first approach might drive the desired business outcomes. These folks talk in a language that speaks to business leaders. IT really has to align the cloud strategy to the business in order to make a measurable difference.
Commit completely and quickly
Moving applications to the cloud has been accomplished piecemeal by individual lines of business that have seen an opportunity to speed a process or automate a workflow. That is one of the reasons the DevOps movement has been the instigator of new cloud workloads. But inching into cloud by each line of business that circumvents IT will not flip the script on the ratio of IT resources spent on innovation versus keeping the lights on. Do you want your IT organization to be in the hardware business or the innovation business? IT needs to jump into cloud-first with a dedicated team whose sole focus is on getting the enterprise to the cloud quickly and securely. In other words, your cloud team can’t keep their day jobs.
Gain control and visibility even when you have less of it
As enterprises race fast and furious to a cloud-first approach, most cloud projects will still initiate from the bottom-up. This makes it very difficult for IT to exercise control over the computing environment and achieve security, compliance, performance, and reliability. CIOs will need to develop strategies to achieve these enterprise goals from a position of less control.
Furthermore, moving to someone else’s data center doesn’t magically fix everything. It may not automatically reduce the sprawl of different applications versions, or enable rapid innovation or break down barriers to information sharing. These are promises that organizations assume will be true when they “move to the cloud” but it takes a strategic IT partner to ensure the organization actually achieves the desired results.
With the cloud shift, IT moves from builders of computing infrastructure to brokers of cloud services that must drive business outcomes. This is a significant and potentially very uncomfortable role change for current IT staff. IT is highly experienced in managing traditional data center vendors. When everything was based in the data center, you had visibility into your compute environment and its costs. Now you’re managing consumption-model solutions with an array of pricing options, discounts, and service-level guarantees. You have to deal with more vendors that will come and go more quickly than you’re used to. And you have to do all of this from an obstructed vantage point.
IT’s top priorities must be achieving 360-degree visibility, including all cloud-based services and applications, and predicting the costs of computing. That will likely require investing in solutions that enable IT to extend visibility and consolidate business data, such as Service Integration and Management (SIAM) and IT Business Management (ITBM). By doing so, you can optimize your resources to launch new services more quickly and focus on innovation to deliver increased value to the business.
Moving to a cloud-first world changes just about everything. It is the way forward and IT must embrace this opportunity. If you’re not on board today, you’re already yesterday’s IT department and allowing your company to become yesterday’s company. The time to become your enterprise’s strategic partner in the cloud shift is now, not 10 years from now.