IT transformation is difficult, if not impossible, without cloud

IMG_2135Information Technology (IT) transformation is all the rage these days. It started as a lofty objective among Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and shifted to a stark requirement for businesses to remain competitive. Even those beyond the IT organization are pushing IT transformation including the rest of the C-Suite and Board of Directors. Why? Without it, companies struggle to remain competitive and potentially suffer catastrophic failure. Simply put, IT has become so important to a business’ success that transformation is now a requirement for remaining competitive in business.

At the same time, the maturity of cloud-based solutions leads to a fundamental requirement for IT transformation. Cloud is no longer just a discussion among IT professionals. Cloud is now a discussion among C-Suite executives and the Board of Directors. Essentially, IT transformation relies on cloud as a significant lever in a company’s arsenal.


However, not all cloud conversations are the same. While many in IT will focus on the technical merits (and hurdles) that cloud provides, C-Suite executives and Boards are looking at the leverage it provides for economic growth and business agility. If the CIO and IT organization are only focused on cloud for technical merit, it will inevitably fail. A conversation pitting one technology against another is missing a key component: context. What is the context in which one technology provides value over the other? And the answer needs to be in terms that convey clear business value.

The reality is that cloud is nothing more than a tool that provides significant leverage. The real question is: What leverage can cloud provide in terms of business advantage not technical merit.


Historically, IT managed most of the solutions internally due to a lack of alternative solutions. Now it is time to get beyond doing everything internally. Regardless if you are in a heavily regulated and compliance industry such as Financial Services or Healthcare, there are mature solutions. In addition, those regulations and compliance requirements do not apply to every system and piece of data that IT manages.

In addition, new requirements coming from Internet of Things, Machine Learning, data integration and mobile will continue to rip apart traditional IT architectures. In essence, traditional architectures have no hope of keeping up with the increasing flow of data and complexity of solutions. IT desperately needs to change to keep up and get ahead of this onslaught.


In order for CIOs to build trust for transformation, they need to get the basics under foot. This statement is non-negotiable. Fundamental functions like email, phone systems, file sharing need to work without incident. These solutions are becoming more complex, but not business differentiating for any given organization. Yet many IT organizations continue to insist on running these functions internally. Sadly, many of the reasons given for this approach no longer hold true.

At the same time, mature cloud-based alternatives exist that provide greater stability, function and agility. Not only does running commodity functions create a distraction for the organization from business-differentiating functions, it also creates an incredible amount of risk to basic business functionality. Unfortunately, failures to get the basics right will continue to plague the CIO and rest of the IT organization by extension.


To be clear, I am not saying cloud for cloud sake. There is a right and wrong place to leverage cloud. The IT organization needs to take a holistic approach to identify how best to leverage cloud. However, for commodity services, cloud should be a mandatory requirement at this point. And those organizations still trying to run commodity services internally…and failing…are only hindering their company’s progress.

It is time we (as IT leaders) take a serious look at our role and consider how best to leverage the tools at our disposal. Transformation is a requirement. Cloud is a requirement. The question is really how to chart the path forward. What we have done in the past will not serve us well in the future. And remember…time is not your friend.


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