Cloud Can Simplify and Empower Enterprise IT

Migrating our applications to the cloud creates the opportunity to do something meaningful for our customers

Geneva Car Show 2010

It looks like cloud computing is taking over. So if cloud is the future, then what might our future technology landscape look like?

The two largest centers of gravity in most IT departments are their back-end ERP and front-end CRM platforms. It’s clear that both of these platforms are migrating from the datacenter to the cloud. Organisations moving to using CRM and social-enabled front-end cloud platforms to engage with our customers. There’s a similar story with our HR and EPR backends that manage our firm’s transactions and help ensure compliance.

Each of these major cloud platforms swaps modules-that-we-customize for apps-that-we-download. The shift to apps allows business units to configure cloud platforms to their liking without much (if any) help from the IT department. Bought a CRM and need it configured to support a sales methodology? Just turn on Holden or Miller-Heiman, for a small additional fee. Want advanced analytics on that HR database? There’s an app for that.

Where we can’t find an app we can pick and choose from the growing number of cloud-delivered point solutions that solve all manner of problems. These solutions might be focused on our vertical, or they might represent general cross-industry capabilities. Need workforce management to support you consulting team? Or scheduling, supply chain planning and asset management to manage logistics? Or inventory management and planning for retail? There’s (probably) a cheap and cheery solution out there just waiting for you and your credit card.

Solutions are also morphing into services. Rather than buying a project and portfolio management solution we’ll buy Project Management Office (PMO) as a Service. We’ll get the tools we need, the methodology and training we need to get the most from the tools, and admin support to help us manage the tool and ensure compliance, all under a single fee structure.

Integration between these cloud-platforms will be treated as a feature to turn on (or as an “integration app” to buy) rather than as a major integration project. The application installation and customization work that used to be the bread and butter of many IT organizations will dry up.

There will, however, continue to be some custom build that we either do ourselves or with a partner. We’re not at the stage where there’s a solution to every problem we have. Nor would we want to push everything out to an external cloud provider, as there are some solutions that are central to the products and services our business provides.

The future IT landscape will be much simpler that those that we’ve struggled with over the last couple of decades. The complexity that used to consume so much of the CIO’s (or CTO’s) time is being hidden inside cloud platforms and app market places, a problem for the vendor to manage, not the CIO. However, as I’ve pointed out before, the CIO will still be accountable if these services are not working. When email stops working it will be the CIO, and not a cloud vendor’s service desk, that the CEO turns to.

But if the shift to the cloud means leaving behind many of the engineering-based skills and competencies that we worked so hard to develop, then why would we do it? Because, as Zach Hicks (Toyota’s CIO in North America) said:

“if I’m screwing around worrying about what version of mail I’m on, it’s wasted effort. It’s a lost opportunity … to do something more meaningful for our customers or our business,”

What do you think? Is moving everything to the cloud a bridge too far? Or do you relish the day when you can roll up your sleeves, get out of the back room, and get involved at the coal face of the business?

Image source: Johnny Ainsworth

About the Author: Peter Evans-Greenwood

Peter Evans-Greenwood is the editor of CIO of the Future. He's also a author, advises independently to CxO, is a Fellow of Deloitte's Centre of the Edge, and lectures in his spare time.