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.

James Gardner
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.

10 Responses to Why you should keep IT off your cloud*

  1. I think the key here is really to build trust and develop the relationship between IT and your business unit (in my case, marketing). I’ve experienced some cases where my IT counterparts truly do fit the stereotypes. In those situations, IT selected solutions that were the best choice for IT in terms of implementation and support, but were not the solutions that best fit my business requirements. I’ve had to live with some systems that really didn’t accomplish what I needed and, in some cases, made things much more difficult for me and my team. In other circumstances, I’ve worked with some very collaborative and business-savvy IT leaders who understand what we’re trying to accomplish at the business level. Those are the situations where we’ve been able to create a win-win for the company. With the current trend of CMOs spending more dollars on technology-related business tools, it’s critical that marketing and IT work together. Often, there’s a disconnect or even distrust between the teams – it’s important for both teams to open their minds to what the other is trying to accomplish and why. Otherwise, there will continue to be unnecessary friction that benefits no one.

  2. Linda,

    You’re right, trust is essential. There are some IT stereotypes that still exist, but I firmly believe that there is a transformation taking place. IT has realised that its value isn’t in commodity services, but its understanding of technology; the next step for them to take is to walk in its customers shoes.

    James

  3. Pingback: Central Desktop: Why you should keep IT off your cloud « Writing by James

  4. bp

    The barbarians are at the gate. It’s time for the masses to rise up and protect the IT acolytes through whom all organizational productivity blessings flow.

    How awful that the business stakeholders and end users are asserting themselves and no longer trusting IT to interpret for them the sacred tests. Why are they not grateful for what has been given them?

  5. Trey

    It’s a sign of the times. Users just know that “this is easy” when they do it themselves at home and get very frustrated when there is/are undo process, projects, schedules, budgets and prioritizations to deal with when they do it at work. “IT” needs to adjust to the world where your average user is capable and savvy.

    • Alex Fury

      However, the problem is, many of the ones who think they are savvy, are not. Just because they can add facebook, twitter, or other (mostly) lowest-common-denominator apps to their phone or computer, does not mean they really have a clue what they are doing once past the ‘let me guide you every step of the way’ instructions they get for such things.

      And honestly, it doesn’t take a genius, or even an above-average intelligence person to understand why a simple add-or-remove on a work machine is not, and SHOULD not always be so easy. The base of the matter is, IT’S NOT THEIR DEVICE… Be it phone, computer, or other item. If something is there, it’s there for a reason. If it’s missing, there’s a good chance it’s missing for a reason (such as, licences). These are things the average (yes even the average ‘savvy’) user doesn’t have a clue about, and more often than not does their best to avoid (such as licences).

  6. CTC

    I’ve been in IT for 15 years. I have heard every excuse in the book from business stakeholders and owners, as to why horrid, short term, IT related decisions were made, as well as the poor treatment of IT staff.
    For example, no organization should EVER use unencrypted and password-less backup files stored offsite to a cloud environment they do not own and control. Yet almost every cloud backup service out there fails this basic security test for its customers, while at the same time claiming customer data secured. However, because of these poor decisions by stakeholders, owners, and even IT staff themselves, the offsite cloud backups have become popular without important data protections in place, in turn creating a misconception that “everyone is doing it”, so it must be secure and safe.
    I am just about done with my career in IT due to issues I have experienced first hand as described in the article. You want trust, but you don’t want to pay for it, so you find low quality IT staff and services at a cheaper rates. You shipped our jobs overseas. The list goes on. Its exhausting on many levels. I have seen the immaturity of other department heads who misused and manipulated projects or initiatives within an organization, that if I as Director of IT also misused or manipulated data I had access to, could ensure my grip and dominance within the organization, (such as job security, cronyism, bonuses) potentially bending much of the organization to my will (within reason to the organizations general objectives, which is usually to make profit).
    Well, I need to spend another weekend studying for one of many certifications since my employer is entirely unsupportive of training during my normal 60 hour work week. Unfortunately I can’t afford the gear to study with an actual piece of equipment to get me some better understanding of the actual device. Thankfully there are some great folks out there creating open source or basically free products to study on, otherwise I would be totally corporate owned and controlled.

    • Alex Fury

      Depending on the certifications… Ebay is your friend. I’m a CCNP with current work that doesn’t let me touch Cisco. But I’ve picked up three Catalyst 9600 multi-layer switches for less than $80/per including shipping. Good way to practice that works better than the emulators/simulators out there. Just as $0.02

  7. VetGeek

    CTC – I totally agree with you. I am also leaving the IT world for the same reasons as you. The business I knew wanted everything handed to them on a platter, but didn’t want to spend a dime for it.

    I’ve always told people, IT is about Intellectual Property. If your not willing to secure it, safeguard it, or store it, you shouldn’t be in business at all.

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