‘It’s Cloud illusions I recall – I really don’t know Clouds at all.’

A great song, around a totally different subject matter of course.  Joni Mitchell sure did not have Cloud technology in mind when she wrote it. Whilst GDPR has recently held attention of the masses, Cloud and the many variants thereof have moved temporarily off the front page – in the UK at least. It’s probably a balanced statement that Cloud headlines have over the last few years been more to do with the advantages and benefits of adoption. In IT circles the innovation is probably in early critical mass stage of adoption with business users generally having a good awareness of what the technology is about.

The benefits and ease of use are many, that’s very true. Where else can a business spin up an IT environment on demand and in minutes with just a few mouse clicks? For small to medium enterprises like our own, the technology is a massive boon. We are able to control, manage and govern our expenditure and data very easily. It’s a different experience though for the large corporates where, though the benefits still hold well, it’s an illusion to suggest that managing Cloud services is easy. It’s just not true.

As with most innovations a decrease in the deployment curve arises when lessons learnt by the innovators and early adopters hit the mainstream as a reality check. This is not unique to cloud of course. Look to previous decades of lessons learnt from innovation. Think of Business process re-engineering  where firms re-engineered without the flexibility offered later by IT systems that separated databases from code;  Think of IT Outsourcing where (in just one example) firms outsourced IT systems & hosting on cost only to find service was….well, service quality was directly aligned to the price paid. Think big data where all firms thought they had to do was purchase a huge powerful engine and then recruit smart data scientists to harvest and enrich the data. It all reminds me of a business cliché – ‘The easy way out is often the hardest way back’. In IT there is never an easy way out; hard miles have to be earned.

Cloud is something we will be turning our attention to in a forthcoming white paper. Fresh from numerous consulting assignments where clients have requested independent views of Cloud strategy and execution, we thought we would put some of those learnings down on paper. One golden lesson I learnt though was that Cloud is not a technology led strategy. This is the IT perennial failing that comes back time and time again. Cloud adoption overwhelmingly has to be business led. Business leaders have to be totally engaged so that they do understand Cloud. Education plays a big part where it is explained to a business in terms that business owners understand, clearly, transparently and with benefits and risk articulated in detail.

Without total business engagement, IT strategies fail. Yes there are many benefits, but there are also a lot of risks. Obvious risks arise from firms not regulating or governing Cloud services thereby creating Cloud sprawl. Invisible but materially significant risks arise from Cloud consolidation when a firm’s supply chain consolidates across a small and dominant number of Cloud vendors. Failure from consolidation risk will be catastrophic.

What I love about Cloud right now is there are lots of questions and that’s a really good thing. Debate always surfaces challenges and sharing of experiences. When these are shared across firms we all find answers. If you have views you would like to share with us, and then please do so either here or in response to one of our  white papers. We believe in Cloud’s ability to transform business, we love the benefits the technology can bring to firms and we want to share the lesson firms are learning with an independent eye.

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