Cloud is About More than Just Technology

Moving to the cloud

Deciding to move to the cloud and using it wisely will require the creation of architectures of the enterprise, both its current and future desired states. This is known as a strategic enterprise architecture (SEA). An SEA is a story of what the organization is trying to accomplish and how. It includes both the business purpose and the enabling technology, i.e., a business architecture and a technology architecture mapped to it.

At the highest level the SEA is expressed in non-technical language anyone in the organization can understand. An SEA lays out all of the business processes, end to end, incorporating external partners and customers. Most organizations have various documents describing what they do, from the thick notebooks of long-range plans gathering dust on shelves to various mission statements. An SEA makes sense of those islands of information. It should clearly show where contradictions in purpose and redundancies in execution lie.

At its most granular level, the SEA becomes technical. It specifies the various information technologies in use. In leading organizations, these are now expressed as a service oriented architecture (SOA), i.e., software is maintained as modules that can be combined to create applications as needed, sometimes by business users. An SOA can reside within the organization or in the Cloud. An SOA is not a necessary to work in the cloud, but it adds tremendous flexibility as the organization senses and responds to changes in its environment.

Is cloud worth it?

At some point the enterprise will need to answer the big questions: Is the company as a whole better off? Is it finding and retaining good customers? Is it delivering new, innovative products to them? Is it adjusting on the fly to changes in customer demand, marketplace realities, new technologies, and competitor moves? Beyond that, what are changes in management and technology doing for the bottom line?

Taking the holistic measure of an enterprise’s performance is a rather straightforward process. This measurement can be combined with interim assessments on the efficiency of individual business processes currently and in a projected best state, and the costs of internal versus external computing. In no case should such measures be made in isolation from their impact on customers and the firm’s overall purpose and strategy.

My opinion of “IT” is well-documented throughout my writings, so I can certainly empathize with many of the cynics who profess the end of IT departments as we know them. However, I believe it is more likely that what we are seeing is the role of CIO change as we’ve known it to-date.

Technology is far too crucial to every business to simply go away, but how it is perceived, utilized, and leveraged in support of driving value is a daily moving target, signifying a critical shift in focus from a basic necessity to a growth enabler of business. It is within this context that the CIO must now figure out where he or she fits in their organization and what role they need to play — technologist, business enabler, or both — if they are going to deliver on the promise that technologies like cloud constantly present.

Faisal Hoque is the founder and CEO of BTM Corporation. He is an internationally known entrepreneur, thought leader, and was named as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Technology. A former senior executive at GE and other multi-nationals, Hoque has written five management books, established a research think tank, the BTM Institute, and become a leading authority on CONVERGENCE, innovation, and sustainable growth. His latest book, “The Power of Convergence,” is now available.