Think Your Organization Can't Do "Cloud": Think "CAN DO" instead!

Waco Bankston, CIO & Director IT, Cyber Security, STP Nuclear Operating Company
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With Cloud Technologies such as PaaS and SaaS being all the rage most people would assume everyone is jumping on the bandwagon—many are, but many are not. And although there are economically sound business cases to support the move from traditional environments not to mention the strategic, long-term benefits of such moves, many IT shops are still defending their turf and holding on to the past with fierce determination.  However, what most do not effectively realize is that one cannot grasp and design the future state while holding on to past beliefs and assumptions. Maintaining the status quo within IT organizations will not necessarily secure a value-adding place in the businesses of tomorrow. One must let go of yesterday and embrace tomorrow, for change is our only constant, and through change and the embracing of change will companies transform themselves into value-adding entities for decades and centuries to come.

Traditionally, IT infrastructure and networking shops dedicated large quantities of resource including time, talent and money to building out best-in-class servers, networks and software development frameworks.  Upwards of 60 percent of employee resource time could likely be contributed to these build outs. But the question posed is whether or not these resources could be better utilized by working on other activities directly and positively impacting the firm’s financial and operational results? The argument is that most IT—Business partnering organizations are not in the business of building machines, but are in the business of adding significant value back to the organizations in which they serve all the while reducing Operational and Capital Expenditures. This is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it is the situation many organizations are facing. So, how can IT organizations and companies as a whole create more value year-over-year helping the businesses in which they operate achieve strategic goals while significantly reducing operating costs? One answer: by embracing the Cloud!

  ‚ÄčToday’s organizations must be extremely flexible and be able to turn on a dime when market conditions call for it  

One of the roadblocks leaders may face when moving toward a cloud technology is the fear employees have of job loss. For example, in the traditional or legacy IT model, a Database or System Administrator may feel his or her job is at risk if his or her organization adopts a Platform or Database as a Service model. This could not be further from the truth. The leader and organizational change agents should help paint a vivid picture of the future, which may have this employee retooled to add even more fulfilling value to his or her firm. Remember, with change as the constant, life-long unchanging careers in technology exist no longer. We, as leaders must inspire and motivate our employees to change with the times. As an employee who has been retooled many times in my own career, I can vouch for both the anxiety that comes with the territory, but of which the end result and excitement far outweighs any initial concerns.

Shifting models from the bulk of IT activity of building “iron” to one of partnering with the business to deliver quality and timely business solutions is very powerful. Allowing Cloud-based firms who build platforms and infrastructure as a core competency to do the heavy lifting allows an organization’s resources to focus on the core business of their company and to focus on relationship building, partnering and collaboration. Today’s organizations must be extremely flexible and be able to turn on a dime when market conditions call for it. Only those organizations who have positioned themselves to respond likewise with both quality and timely solutions will survive. Yesterday is no longer—the future of tomorrow requires new thinking and radically changing how technology is utilized in driving business strategy. Technology is no longer a business support function but rather a key enabler of business strategy.

Many skeptics are likely screaming at their computer screen—but WHAT ABOUT SECURITY?  Think about it. The top-tier firms specializing in cloud services and support have their entire reputation on the line every single second of every single day. These service providers invest billions of dollars building out robust and secure networks to sustain their reputable position in the market place. Those firms who continue to run their legacy shops, in my view, are stronger targets for data breaches and loss than say that of Rackspace or CenturyLink’s cloud solutions.  These firms spend intensive capital—much more than private entities—on securing their networks. They are expert in this field. And this does not account for the fact that data housed within a cloud-based firm’s data centers would be much more difficult to find and exploit than if it were in one central, well known data center location. The take away here is that data and network security technologies have advanced at lightning speed over the past five years and will only continue to do so. Let the experts do what they do best—protecting our reputation along with theirs. There is no more a powerful partnership than to have both partners’ reputations on the line. Of the thousands of companies served by these cloud-based service firms, one single breach could take down the entire firm. This is a risk these firms cannot and do not allow. These risks are mitigated with every technology known to man. In short, I believe cloud-based technologies will become and perhaps are even safer and more secure than the data we have in our own homes and businesses.

Finally, I’m a huge believer in developing and growing an organization’s people. If leaders fail to focus on employee and talent development the organization will not sustain itself over the long term. With the move to cloud technologies for traditional or legacy-based IT shops, the savings reaped and the efficiencies gained can be reinvested into the strategic innovations of the business and perhaps most importantly back into employee development and retooling. Retooling an employee base can be one of the most rewarding and energizing activities a firm can do to redefine the company’s future.

Cloud computing is here to stay. It will revolutionize how traditional IT shops relate to the business. The definition of Information Technology is likewise radically changing and the Cloud movement is upon us. Will you be ready and positioned to take advantage of this revolution or will you be left behind? Don’t allow your organization to suffer because it is afraid to let go of the past and grab hold to the future. Lead and inspire visions of tomorrow of which Cloud based solutions will be key.

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