Retaking the High Ground in the Cloud Discussion

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Bob Deutsche joined Intel in 2004 and has more than 25 years of business and IT experience in positions that ranged from data center operations to software development to CIO. He can be found online at Bob Deutsche on the Intel Server Room.

Bob_DeutscheBOB DEUTSCHE
Intel

If you read my first post (and at least one person did…thank you Howard!), you may remember I closed it by suggesting that IT really isn’t driving cloud adoption in the enterprise. Informal buyers (i.e., end users), a term created by Forrester’s Frank E. Gillett, are pretty much driving that bus. For the most part, IT and the data center are being dragged along for the ride. (I’m not sure anybody would warmly welcome their own possible extinction. But that discussion is for another time.)

Anyway, there’s some truth to this conclusion based on what we’re hearing from our customers. It’s appropriate for IT and the data center to find a way of establishing or reinforcing their value in this space without becoming an impediment, perceived or otherwise. Depending on your relationship with your business partners (time for an honest assessment here, since this becomes a key consideration later on), establishing your value may not be easy. But you can do it if you take the enterprise solution perspective that most IT shops enjoy.

Let’s explore this by looking at how cloud is finding its way into a typical enterprise. Say an informal buyer (Forrester’s definition) from your sales organization tells your CIO they just contracted to implement a new cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) system that’s absolutely guaranteed to be up and running in 35 days. Since this new application replaces a legacy system, the vendor told your vice president of sales that cost savings are in the bag. You’ll be able to consolidate your data center, which is now hosting the legacy application, and keep headcount low. The vice president asks you to supply any links the contractor needs to the legacy data to get the new package to work. Life is good.

Trusted Partner or Expensive Necessity?

Could something like this really happen? Only you can answer that question, since results may vary. Although the 35-day promise might be a stretch, the example may be more real than any of us would care to admit. It all comes back to your perceived value to the business. (I told you we were going to bring this up again.) Are you perceived as a trusted partner? Or are you seen as an expensive necessity that is slow and cumbersome and contributes nothing to reducing time to market? Again, be honest when you think about this.

Over the course of multiple companies and careers, I’ve held positions both outside and inside IT and the data center. Having said this, and with my business hat on, I often find that IT and data center types have a hard time understanding the perspective of their business partners—or, even more disconcertingly, seeing what’s most important to their companies. This point is crucial for you to understand just how different your view of a cloud solution is from your business partner’s.

Let’s take the perspective of the sales vice president. At the end of the day (and admittedly, this is over-simplified), the performance and compensation of our hypothetical vice president of sales is measured using two basic criteria:

1) How many widgets the company pushes out the door per year (likely broken down into quarterly sales objectives and driven by the profitability objectives of your shareholders and enterprise)

2) The cost of sales (very simply, how much the company spends to peddle the widget, with lower costs equating to higher profitability and happier shareholders)

If a vendor’s cloud solution promises to reduce the cost of sales, and if the source of that information is deemed credible, that’s about all that matters to the vice president of sales—particularly if he’s not especially fond of the enterprise IT organization. The key takeaway is that the vice president of sales views a cloud solution very differently from the way you do. Perspectives are driven by how people are rewarded and cloud solutions are fundamentally defined by perspectives.

The IT and data center team is paid to be concerned about the entire enterprise rather than its individual elements. So, by design, you view cloud solutions differently than the vice president of sales.

That said, here’s a table of components that IT and the data center should consider when developing a scalable cloud solutions framework:
Chart - Cloud

As suggested earlier, the key to introducing these concepts without being perceived as an impediment to progress comes down to your credibility in the enterprise. So, beyond these basics, you need to figure out the best way to make your case in terms your business and, in our case, your vice president of sales, can really understand.

My next post in this series will suggest how you can frame these discussions in terms that are important to your business. As before, I am very interested in your feedback regarding:

  • 1) How has cloud found its way into your organization?
  • 2) Has the journey so far been a systems approach, as outlined above, or more along the lines of putting out a fire?
  • 3) What potential data center and IT organizational changes do you see coming as a result of these actions?

I’m looking forward to your feedback on the topic we’ve discussed here, as well as on all these upcoming questions. Until next time.

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2 Comments

  1. You may want to check out http://www.opendatacenteralliance.org/ And http://www.tmforum.org/EnablingCloudServices/8006/home.html

  2. Bob Deutsche

    Sean, thank you for the links. I have been following ODCA activity since its inception in October of 2010 and of course its most recent usage model publication. Your second link though is new to me and will be exploring that a bit deeper. Bob