Why you should keep IT off your cloud*

* if you don’t want to make the most of the opportunity

Cloud systems – the perfect opportunity to take control of your processes and practices. A system that can boost your productivity and that you can mold to your exact requirements, all without the interference of IT. No infrastructure requirements, no development, no overcomplicated business analysis and project management – just the appointment of a vendor who can take away the pain and make things happen.

Or is it?

If you just read the headlines and looked no further, you would think that IT was to blame for most of the more public IT failures. A quick search through ZDNet reveals:

“RBS Bank joins the IT failures ‘Hall of Shame’”

“Worldwide cost of IT failure (revisited): $3 trillion”

The term IT has become synonymous with the department that shares its name, and as a result it has a terrible reputation: one that is based in misconceptions and stereotypes. Here are four reasons why you should break out of this fallacy and involve IT when implementing cloud solutions.

IT ≠ Geek

Let’s face it, the IT archetype is not flattering. It looks a lot like this:

That’s a clip from the brilliant UK sitcom, The IT Crowd, which plays off the stereotype. Unfortunately, it’s an image that is believed to be true by a lot of people. How many times have you asked your IT staff to take a look at your laptop during a meeting or asked them about an issue you’re having with a family computer, assuming that they know how to fix it?

The truth of the matter is that IT no longer means laptops and servers. Yes, that’s a part of it, but a large part of the IT department’s time is spent looking at the application of technology to business problems, and that in turn means cloud services. IT is now a strategic business function, not just a support function, and a well-run department can have a massive effect on the organization. This change is embodied in IBM’s ongoing set of reports on the changing face of the CIO, in which the I is constantly redefined. CIOs have evolved from infrastructure suppliers to information guardians to innovation harnessers.

And even if your local IT representative is a bit of a geek, you still shouldn’t ignore them. IT employees, by the very nature of their interests, are often early adopters of these cloud-based services and technologies. This experience can and will help you understand the possibilities of these solutions.

IT ≠ No

The second misconception about IT is that they like to say “No” – to just about everything; there’s always a reason why a project can’t or shouldn’t be done. IT departments don’t always say “No,” but they will challenge you. IT departments are driven by policies, and not always ones of their own making. IT departments are often the default Data Protection Officers within an organization, responsible for data security across all areas of the business; they are also charged with implementing policies around employee account security (leavers and joiners), mobile device management, and a whole other host of others. If a SOX compliance audit is being run, or a legal hold needs to be implemented, it will be IT who get involved.

So, IT departments don’t say “No,” but they will tell you if a policy is being contravened or a regulation being broken and they will challenge you if they think there is a more suitable solution available (see point 3 below).

Involving IT early on in a project allows them to make sure all the due diligence around a vendor solution has been completed. Working with them will minimize confrontation and allow them to better understand what you are trying to achieve. Presenting a fait accompli will stop this in its tracks.

IT = Experience

IT departments are used to implementing software, whether it’s hosted or provided as a service. They’re also highly experienced in working with vendors. With a dotted-line reporting structure into Finance being standard in most organizations, they’re also very close to procurement. As such, they can be be extremely useful when selecting and evaluating vendors.

When selecting vendors, IT departments will have a good knowledge of the different solutions within the competitive environment. It’s a core requirement for them to be able to evaluate all vendors within a solution space and select the most relevant solution sets. Make use of this competence and get IT involved in sourcing vendors. They’ll be able to give you a structured approach to vendor evaluation as well.

When evaluating suppliers, they’ll be able to assess not just the functional offering, but the ability and capability to deliver. Will the supplier be able to scale to support you? How are they protecting their data? What will they do in the event of a major data loss? All these questions can be assessed by IT and they are all critical questions to ask when outsourcing business function and data to a third-party. They’re also the questions that are commonly forgotten when IT isn’t involved.

IT = Knowledge

In my last article, Security and privacy in the clouda key element in securing your cloud solutions was control over your own processes, especially those related to accounts and data storage. IT departments are key to gaining this control. By involving them in the implementation of a cloud solution, they’ll be able to adapt existing processes to control these elements – taking the pressure off you – or supply you with well-formed processes for you to implement. Either way, you’ll be able to benefit from the knowledge they have around this kind of operation; after all, it’s something IT departments do every day.

Data security is the greatest concern for businesses moving into the cloud, whether it is warranted or not, so don’t lose access to this knowledge around data security by excluding the experts from the conversation. Get them onboard and use them to help build your case with the key decision makers.

Keep your IT team close

Next time you’re looking to bring a system in, include IT in the pitch – you’ll be surprised at what they can add. Whether it’s a different perspective on the functionality available, a new vendor that may not have been considered, a workaround for a difficult regulatory requirement, or simply taking some of the weight of delivering the project on time and on budget, IT can help. Involve them early and you’ll have a true delivery partner. IT departments are business savvy – they often have a very wide and holistic view of an organization – and given room, will be able to help you get the most from your cloud solutions.

Have you involved IT in a project? What have your experiences been? Good or bad, let us know in the comments.

Post by James Gardner

is a digital technology strategist. Now working in the pharmaceutical industry, he previously worked at Volume, one of the largest independent B2B digital marketing agencies in the UK. Throughout his career, he has dealt with everything from social media and cloud computing to storage area networks and virtualization, giving him a broad view on the technology issues facing businesses today. In his spare time he can be found making cars out of Legos - with his two kids obviously - or dreaming of a walk-on part in a Romero zombie movie.