‘Cloud’ is a hot topic but despite the sky high (excuse the pun) promises and expectations it’s not all things to all people or a panacea for all IT. Here we try to give you the low-down on what cloud can – and can’t – do for business.
At the moment it seems we have ‘alphabet as a Service’. Prefix aaS with any letter you like and it probably means something to somebody. We talk about ‘the cloud’ as if it’s one thing but ‘cloud’ services come in many different forms and what’s right for one company or one software application isn’t right for another.
The commercial story
We all know that the key business priorities are GROWTH (in a flat economy) & PROFIT, mainly through greater efficiency. To achieve these aims companies need to create operational versatility and join up silos to get everyone working together as ‘1 company’.
For IT this means 2 things
- Engage more closely with business – IT as business enabler
- Control & manage costs through greater efficiency.
That usually means reduce complexity, reduce large capital expenditures and respond faster and more proactively to changing business needs. Sometimes these can feel like painfully conflicting demands yet a well-designed and streamlined IT environment that leverages & integrates cloud services in the right way delivers a platform that brings together and addresses these challenging demands. Critically, it brings this capability within the technical and commercial reach of the mid market in a potentially ‘game-changing’ way.
The cloud landscape
Understanding the cloud landscape is pretty complex even for cloud technologists but here are three aspects that can cause technical or commercial confusion.
1.’ Cloud’ is a very generic term for pretty much anything that is not delivered in-house! The most common forms of cloud are ‘Software as a Service’ i.e. the delivery of user applications as a subscription service and the delivery of IT services, infrastructure, resources or platforms as a service. There is no single definition and no ‘one size fits all’.
2. The level of support and resilience offered varies enormously from no guarantees at all to full Service Level Agreements and penalty clauses.
3. Cloud is not necessarily cheaper. Cloud moves much of ICT from a capex to an opex model and so it smooths costs over time and makes cost management more predictable. The real business advantage, and cost avoidance over time, comes from the flexibility and scalability to change, the freeing up of internal resources to focus on engaging with the business and from avoiding the costs and business barriers associated with running old and legacy equipment.
So when’s the right time to start the journey?
Common business triggers include
- Changes in how IT and business engage
- Changing working environments (eg mobility, flexible working)
- Business change programmes
- ‘One company’ initiatives and restructuring
- New business applications
- Improving collaboration with 3rd parties or other locations
Common technology triggers include
- Server upgrades, refresh or virtualisation / rationalisation
- New or upgraded applications (or requirements to extend access to applications to new sites / partners)
- Technology review
- Back-up/business continuity requirements
- Security review
- Supplier / service contract rationalisation
The 5i Training view
So, with our feet on the ground, what’s our view of the cloud?
You only have to look at the market statistics and predictions so see that deployment in the cloud is a growing trend that is only going to accelerate as the commercial model becomes well-established.
We also know that one size does not fit all. It never has for on-premise solutions and managed services and it won’t in the cloud. Neither is cloud ‘all or nothing’.
Each company has its own start point and its own goals so each needs a joined up ICT plan that is based on what’s right for that specific business – commercially, technically and financially.
It’s far too easy to oversell the benefits of cloud without really quantifying the value a potential customer might receive. That leads to a pipeline that quickly withers at the qualification stage.
Those offering cloud services need to be clear about their value proposition and how it addresses the needs of their customers. With that understanding, and a clear methodology for customer migration, cloud providers can start to deliver on the promise of the cloud as a platform for business flexibility, efficiency and growth.