A cloud computing alarm clock

Cloud computing is ready to take its rightful place in the strategic portfolio of every business and CIOs need a playbook to create a comprehensive cloud strategy.

Cloud computing has reached an inflection point for enterprises — a comprehensive strategy for its use is now required. Until now, most companies had adopted cloud services in an ad hoc fashion, driven mostly by business leaders and developers looking to deliver new systems of engagement they felt could not be delivered by corporate IT — or in the time frame required. These ad hoc experiences prove that cloud solutions are now ready to be strategic resources in enterprise business technology portfolios. Only CIOs can help the business strike the right balance between the agility, efficiency, security, compliance, and integration that's required for a successful cloud strategy.

At Forrester we  have devised a Playbook approach to our cloud research, which describes how to execute an enterprise cloud strategy from vision to planning to implementation through to ongoing optimisation.

Cloud computing in its various forms is helping many CIOs drive greater business responsiveness. Enough so that most enterprises have adopted cloud computing in some form — usually a collection of software-as-a-service offerings. But cloud solutions now offer cost optimisation, security, and quality of service for the full range of enterprise requirements, not just tactical needs. Thus, it is time to make cloud strategic, rather than a disconnected set of initiatives. How? CIOs need a playbook to create, implement, and optimise an end-to-end cloud strategy. This cloud strategy must achieve three goals:

  • Establish the measurable business value of the new technology. Obviously, we believe cloud's primary role should be to ramp up the IT organisation's business responsiveness via "systems of engagement," which are separate from your systems of record. The business value of systems of engagement is found in revenue growth, customer retention, lifetime customer value, and similar measures — not in IT metrics.
  • Make space in your portfolio for cloud capabilities. Start by recognising cloud computing as an additional set of IT solutions and platforms, not necessarily a replacement for your existing portfolio. Think back to the advent of web technology during the mid-90s. Enterprises had to open up their IT strategies to make space for new types of applications, talents, technologies, and vendors. Cloud is a similar change.
  • Start the organisational change management. Adoption of cloud as a strategic technology will require changes in the way a CIO’s domain operates — in every dimension. The IT organisation will emphasise consultative service delivery rather than rigid controls to ensure integrity and efficiency. Notions of openness and freedom of choice will evolve. The organisation's relationships with business leaders will be more collaborative than they've ever been. The strategy should identify the most critical changes as top priorities and sequence broader changes over time to avoid chaos.

The dividends from adoption of cloud computing will be to transform an organisation's business responsiveness. Cloud solutions drive a responsiveness transformation hard because they:

  • Empower IT pros to deliver more solutions faster — and keep innovating.
  • Standardise workloads to simplify decision-making about new investments and their implementation.
  • Revise a CIO’s base of technology and skills to emphasise fast, flexible business action.
  • Move CIOs to dynamic cost management to match expenditures to business priorities and results                                              

John R. Rymer is vice president, principal analyst serving application development & delivery professionals. Forrester clients can read the full report here.