IT Innovators: Cloud Enables Masons of California to More Effectively Meet Member Needs
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IT Innovators: Cloud Enables Masons of California to More Effectively Meet Member Needs

Learn how the public, private and hybrid cloud is enabling IT Innovation for one organization

For Michael Skaff, chief operating officer and privacy officer at the Masons of California, the cloud is more than just an enabler of technology. It’s an enabler of IT innovation.

The 55,000-member Masons of California primarily leverages public cloud systems, but is also utilizing a hybrid cloud to meet certain business needs. The organization is also considering private cloud for a few uses, according to Skaff.

“As long as the solutions are well-designed, and the associated contracts and integrations carefully managed, cloud-based services offer an unprecedented opportunity for IT to shift its primary focus from building technology to delivering business value,” said Skaff.

The Masons of California are leveraging the cloud across a number of systems and services. From internally focused applications to externally facing member-focused systems, the organization uses a wide array of “the best platforms, systems, services and applications available today,” according to Skaff.

Generally speaking, he said, cloud-based platforms have allowed the Masons of California to scale an array of valuable services more seamlessly, dynamically and cost-effectively to its members; to deploy and manage components of traditionally internal IT systems and services more effectively; and to reserve capital investments for areas that provide significant and lasting value to the organization’s membership and related entities.

More specifically, the cloud has helped the Masons of California effectively add new services to meet dynamically changing needs.

“Legacy hosted systems are not as easily nor as cost-effectively scalable, and we needed to be able to more fluidly evaluate and layer in new services,” said Skaff. “We have had great success in leveraging a number of cloud services to solve this problem. From building R&D instances to delivering predictable and scalable performance for important components of our member-facing platforms, these solutions have been very effective in significantly driving down cost, increasing both scalability and availability of key system components, and amplifying the value of our developers' code.”

All of this, in turn, has enabled Masons of California’s IT staff to focus on how best to leverage technology to support strategic business initiatives.

“Utilizing a comprehensive portfolio of cloud services, applications and platforms has reduced cost, and allowed us to redirect resources to areas that provide more direct value to our supported entities and ultimately to our membership,” said Skaff. “Like any other good investment, they have delivered value, driven financial performance, and contributed to our organizational strategy in meaningful ways.

Rather than building from bare metal up, added Skaff, the technology teams now focus on identifying the areas that will drive the most significant value to each of the organization’s key constituencies and then determine how best to bring those resources “to market.”

“Historically, it took great effort and sometimes significant expense to leverage or build highly customized technology to meet the needs of a business,” said Skaff. “Now, those barriers of cost and complexity have come down, almost entirely in some areas, and have been greatly reduced in others. While the technology challenges have, in some cases, shifted to other areas—such as integration, security and greater vendor lock-in, for example—the distance between the true potential of technology and the realization of that potential has been greatly reduced.”

The Masons of California will continue to actively evaluate and utilize cloud-based solutions—public, private and/or hybrid—as organizational and member needs continue to evolve.

“The day has not yet come where all of our core systems and services operate on the cloud,” said Skaff, “but, given the right conditions, that may change.”

Deb Donston-Miller has worked as a tech journalist and editor since 1990. If you have a story you would like profiled, contact her at [email protected]

The IT Innovators series of articles is underwritten by Microsoft, and is editorially independent.

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