The cloud is the start of a journey, not the end

Yesterday Mimecast hosted a dinner for the enterprise last night at Quaglino's in London.  The event was attended by a good cross-section of verticals with representatives from investment banking, charities, telecommunications, legal and accountancy.

Within the private dining suite sat over 100 years of combined real-life experience of deploying IT projects to discuss the issues and opportunities related to Software-as-a-Service.  The different perspectives from the guests played well against each other and one thing bubbled to the surface very quickly: deploying cloud-based services may solve the technical issues but it does not solve the deeper issues related to how organisations utilise IT in their business.

The discussion then quickly moved to how discuss other projects that had faltered in the past not because the technology was flawed, but rather the business was trying to deploy technology without first understanding how they would, and could, use it.

Too often policy has historically been dictated by the technology deployed, rather than best practice or good governance.  When the technology changes, which it inevitably does, organisations are suddenly faced with the challenge of maintaining the status quo. The reaction is often to try and wedge the previous way of doing things into the new technology, often with disastrous results.  The new technology often supports better, more efficient ways of doing things but the organisation is so busy focusing on the technical complexities of migration that they miss the opportunity to harness this.

The conversation then came squarely back to Software-as-a-Service.  Everyone agreed that it makes sense to move services that are a commodity to the cloud.  One of the guests mentioned that they had recently undertaken this process with CRM, moving to that poster child of Software-as-a-Service -  Apparently this project went smoothly from a technical perspective, but the move opened up a chasm between two parts of the business who started arguing over the right way to implement a particular process.

Far from being a negative, I see this as a real positive benefit of cloud computing.  If business processes are flawed, the move to Software-as-a-Service changes the focus from implementing the plumbing to solving the business problem.  Businesses have now recognised the necessity to move from being IT-led to being business-led, hence the popularity of business-focused IT frameworks like ITIL and COBIT.

Software-as-a-Service is the engine to enable this shift, it abstracts the business problem away from the plumbing.   IT staff are no longer concerned with running the infrastructure and fighting fires.  The IT department is transformed into a business enablement function, freed to spend time to join the discussion on how value can be added to the processes.

They can spend time advising and architecting IT-solutions to support the reengineered business processes that the challenging economy of today demands.

The alternative?  They continue to be perceived as just a cost to the business - the department that says ‘NO’.  Even worse, they can stand by simply as the guardians of the infrastructure while they watch inefficient business processes eating into the profitability of the business, even therefore their budgets and even job security.