Rewind just over 12 months when there were numerous articles proclaiming the end of the CIO role within five years; IT departments would be bypassed by CFOs and CMOs purchasing cloud services directly from vendors and without the involvement of the internal IT function.
I argued against this view in a number of articles on this site. In What is it with the CIO role… I explained how selecting and managing multiple service providers was a key element of the CIO role and, with the advent of cloud, was becoming more important, not less. I also explained how the successful procurement and use of cloud services requires a range of technical knowledge covering security models, integration with internal or other cloud-based systems, understanding when to use private or public cloud, negotiating service level agreements, etc. My conclusion in that article was that cloud would actually reinforce the importance of the CIO rather than diminish or eliminate the role.
Earlier this year I took part in an online roundtable discussion hosted by MeetTheBossTV where we discussed how we were using cloud, future plans and challenges. Integration was identified as being key to a successful cloud implementation – there was general agreement that an effective integration layer makes using cloud services on a ‘plug-and-play’ basis a real possibility.
It’s not surprising then to see the results of a recent Oracle survey entitled Cloud for Business Managers: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which identified integration as being a major challenge to realising the benefits of using cloud solutions. In fact integration features in 7 of the 10 key findings from the survey:
- 54% say their department has experienced staff downtime due to cloud integration problems and another 54% say project deadlines have been missed.
- 83% have been prevented from getting the best out of their departmental cloud applications – 1 in 4 blames poor integration.
- 75% say their ability to innovate using their cloud apps has been hindered and the main hindrance is a lack of integration (53%).
- 1 in 2 companies has abandoned the use of at least 1 departmental cloud app in the last 3 years due to integration problems.
- 81% of all respondents think it is important that cloud applications are fully integrated with each other and with other software in the organisation.
- Among those who claim to have integrated cloud apps, integration seems to be only partial, covering some apps/processes/departments.
- 68% of cloud adopters have attempted integration, but 55% of these have tried and failed.
These findings prove that the over-simplified view of a ‘pay and use’ model will not give organisations the benefits they expect from cloud services. In fact, if the decision to use cloud services is not supported with the appropriate thought and governance around design, integration, data and security, then it may actually cause more problems than the on-premise services they are replacing.
And this supports my view and that of many CIOs that there is a clear and important role for the IT function to play in ensuring the right vendors and services are selected and that issues such as integration, security, etc, are avoided; the IT department is key to ensuring the right cloud services are used in the right way. With the use of cloud services growing so does the importance of the IT department’s role as a broker, or facilitator, of cloud services for their organisations.
But CIOs and IT departments have to evolve to ensure they can perform this new role. As the Oracle survey demonstrates, this goes beyond effective procurement and vendor management; it’s about designing a platform that can support and integrate multiple cloud services being provided by multiple service vendors; and managing the deployment, ongoing performance and development of those services on behalf of the organisation. But they need to do this in a way that positions them as enablers and not the traditional gate-keepers of technology; helping the rest of the business to get the most out of cloud services and doing so as quickly as possible. This change in role requires a different skill-set and, just as importantly, a different attitude and culture than has existed within IT departments in the past.
CIOs will need to work with their C-suite colleagues to explain the role that the IT function can play in ensuring their organisations avoid the pitfalls that the respondents to the Oracle survey have experienced when using cloud services. They need to ensure that they and their functions are engaged at the start of the decision-making process, working alongside the rest of the business to define the required outcomes, identifying the most appropriate solutions and the right deployment model.
If CIOs can reposition themselves and transform their departments to meet this challenge the cloud will indeed have a silver lining for them.