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Innovation at the speed of life
The time for talk – the time for the hype – is over. Is cloud finally poised to deliver on its early promise? How cloud can help CIOs innovate for change and growth at the speed of life.
CIOs are operating in a changing world. Tectonic shifts in the way employees work and play, the way we communicate and the economic environment are leading CIOs a merry dance. This paper looks at just some of the big organisational changes CIOs are facing. It explores how they can make the most of cloud’s fundamental strengths to tackle them. Many billed 2011 as the year cloud would finally take off. After years of expectation and hyperbole, this was the year it would start to deliver on its promise. But while we start to see shards of light finally splinter through the grey, this year has, so far, witnessed more threatening weather gathering overhead. The unfortunate experiences of some high profile outages have dented cloud’s reputation. We once again debated whether cloud could be trusted. Could we really buy computing services over the worldwide web, just as we would gas, water or electricity? There’s another side to the 2011 cloud coin however. Take a look at SpotCloud, for example – the world’s first spot market for cloud computing. Early predictions suggested it wouldn’t take off because of the opaqueness of its services, but now signs are more promising. Elsewhere, consumer adoption of cloud services continues apace, whether that’s hosted email, productivity, storage or entertainment services. The explosion of new mobile devices is also spurring adoption. Unsurprisingly, business still lags behind. To date, uptake of cloud has been limited to the early adopters. But for some that stands ready to change: in July 2011, 49 per cent of CIOs saw moving services into the cloud as a priority for their organisation.1 Cloud is just a part of evolution: changes in the way we communicate with each other; in the way we do business. Of evolution, the German writer Goethe once said: ‘progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution’. Business’ adoption of cloud is inevitable. But, just like any other evolutionary process, that adoption might not take place along a straight line, and it should be for the right reasons.
A history of cloud: a theory mis-sold?
The barriers to businesses getting onboard with cloud services are well-debated. Security concerns, whether genuine or perceived, have dominated the early stage of the cloud, as have issues around data storage and regulation. CIOs have often found it difficult to get buy-in to cloud internally. But there’s something more fundamental that’s happened throughout: cloud has been miss-sold and, subsequently, misunderstood. The cloud industry allowed the idea to be expressed as an amorphous, all-singing, all-dancing answer to IT’s future.
The hype began to exceed the reality. The industry’s failure to clearly articulate how cloud should be adopted, and what benefits it can bestow, has become the biggest barrier to adoption. We’re still seeing ‘cloud-wash’ now, and BT’s research suggests 56 per cent of people are struggling to articulate the benefits of cloud services down to a business case level. Attempts to define the cloud aren’t helpful. We need to stop talking about cloud in purely technological terms. More on that later.
BT’s ‘Voice of the Customer’ research, July 2011
The cloud and change
Sure, it’s a cliché, but the only certainty for businesses now is change. CIOs have already weathered their fair share of it, negotiating the turbulent economic climate, a climate of budget cuts and efficiency drives. Many will be over-familiar with downsizing and innovating to increase productivity. But we’re also on the verge of some monumental tectonic shifts in the way we manage our relationships, the way we work and the way we communicate. Successful businesses will not only have to survive recession, but also decisively address these shifts.
Anytime, anywhere…at school
BT is working with pilot schools in Coventry, Ealing and the Isle of Wight on a unique ‘virtual desktop’ project. BT Learn Anytime will allow teachers, pupils and parents to access their school computer virtually – and any resources they need – on any device.
Our reliance on silicon has changed the role of the IT department. More than ever before the CIO is at the heart of a business’ ability to respond to change. These ‘shifts’ all require CIOs to think differently about their IT mix. We look at three of the biggest changes that are already shaping that thinking.
1. Talkin’ about my generation? Henry Ford once said: ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse’. Are we now the ‘faster horse’ generation? The impact of an influx of ‘generation Y’ employees into the workplace has long been a hot topic for HR directors. But there are implications for IT too. Do CIOs look to bend new employees to current ways of working? Telling younger employees they can only use email or that they can’t use their smartphone in the office might work to a point, but from their perspective you might as well be asking them to send a telegram. But this debate could be a red herring. Changes in the way we work are equally driven by the ‘consumerisation’ of IT than by generational differences. Personal preference, individual choice and the desire to use just one device are powerful forces. A 2010 survey suggested that more than 50 per cent of iPad owners use their device for business. It isn’t exclusive to younger generations, either: chief execs have iPads and want to use them at work too. Despite not officially supporting the devices, some businesses have already developed iPad apps to provide live reports against KPIs for the board. Highly networked employees have found new tools – whether that’s an iPad or a social media app – that are useful to their job. As the number of devices and apps proliferate, so ‘one size fits all’ IT will become more redundant. Looking further into the future, ‘traditional’ IT may disappear entirely. We’ll bring our own individual tools to our work whenever we take on a new assignment or role. Consumerisation of the corporate IT space is already well established. CIOs can’t afford to think ‘faster horse’ if their organisation is to attract the best talent, and make the most of them when they arrive.
2. Inconceivable connectivity Mass connectivity is changing how we live and work irrevocably. Fixed networks, wireless networks, private clouds, public clouds: anytime, anywhere, any device. Almost limitless connectivity is set to transform our personal and professional worlds. It’s already happening: look at the way we track parcels or supply chain movements, for example. This is just the beginning. How so? Well, imagine you’re on holiday and there’s a water leak back home. Sensors there recognise the danger, and alert you on your mobile phone. At the touch of a button you can turn the water off, and let a local plumber know you want them to fix the problem. There are professional applications too. The pharmaceutical industry, for example, has already started to use the cloud to carve out a radically new future for itself. Ingestible sensors that send data for live analysis in the cloud are only a stone’s throw away. The combination of data and analysis in the cloud will completely transform how individuals, communities and corporations interact. We’re not there yet, but the path to a new way of thinking about connectivity and the cloud – and how it can deliver innovation into a business – is in train.
3. It’s IT, but not as we know it Cast your mind back twenty years. How was your office different from the environment you’re sitting in now? Well, there weren’t computers at every desk. It was probably divided into smaller rooms. Desk layout was hierarchical. The fax machine was the conversational water cooler. Today, open plan, noisy offices are the norm. Hot-desking, working from home or on the move and using personal laptops are commonplace. But despite the modern environment creating multiple ways of working, one fixture has remained constant – the software that runs on our own, instantly recognisable operating system, and on our own servers. But chunks of that recognisable software disappearing might not be as far away as you think. The software market has already started to change, and the ways we work within the digital universe are set to transform with it. The cloud, for example, will allow innovation-focused CIOs to move to an app store approach, sampling new services on a pay as you go basis to deliver new thinking into their organisation swiftly. Beyond that, signs are that this could lead to the development of a new kind of cloud-based digital ‘identity’ that moves with us, whoever we work for and wherever we’re based. Bonded to the system and apps of whatever company we work for, this online passport would allow everyone to bring their own tools to the work party, but integrate them with the services of our employer. Ok, so a personal digital key to all IT services may be a little way down the line. But the emergence of a more powerful Google ID, or a digital government identity card, doesn’t take a leap of imagination.
The cloud journey and innovation
When we look back on whether cloud lived up to its promise, we won’t judge it by how much money it saved. We will judge it by how much money it made by enabling innovation and driving efficiencies. Delivering success against a backdrop of far-reaching change will be the yardstick.
BT was recognised in Germany by the analysts of Experton Group in their latest “Cloud Vendor Benchmark 2011” report, where BT Virtual Data Centre was listed as a “leader” in three categories.
Cloud-wash has been a distraction. A perception has grown that cloud is one homogenous entity that you’re either onboard with, or you’re not. But the reality is something entirely different. The immediate and medium-term future for cloud will, and should, be riven with individuality. The cloud is the perfect test and development environment – it’s what it was designed for. The flexible cost model means it doesn’t need huge upfront investment. Critically, it offers almost limitless opportunities to try new things and drive innovation through your business. And cloud isn’t just a vehicle for responding to changing conditions within the workplace: it can drive innovation in how it faces the outside world, too. Quick and scalable infrastructure and an app store model could, for example, support rapid product development. It could also enable easier access to end customers and new markets. But regardless of the intention, a wholesale movement into the cloud would be painful for any organisation – too painful. And it probably wouldn’t be a good move either. Be clear why you want cloud: while it offers agility, it can come at a price. In some cases, particularly where greater flexibility is not an issue, it won’t be the right thing at all. But where do you start? How can you use IT to inspire an innovative culture, stimulate new ways of working to drive benefits to the bottom line? We suggest five ideas to consider.
1) Not tech objectives, but business ones Develop a vision for where you want to take cloud in your organisation – but make it a vision that starts with small, practical steps. It sounds obvious but, as with any other decision you would make, think about your business first. What are the changing operational requirements of the business over the next five years? What role does IT play in the business hitting its objectives over that period? As cloud becomes more commonplace the CIO’s role will shift more towards drawing up business policies. These will become the CIOs heartland: use them not only to direct internal audiences, but also your service providers and software vendors.
2) To understand your future, first understand your past… Look at your legacy infrastructure and systems. What parts of your legacy do you want, or need, to take forward? What apps will need re-writing for the cloud? It won’t always be the right option: what legacy systems still deliver?
3). Trial. Succeed. Fail. Learn. The very nature of cloud means CIOs can become ultra-focused, identifying bespoke projects that can leverage success for their individual business. Find pilots ripe for cloud experimentation. Trial something in a contained way, succeed or fail, learn, shut it down or scale it up. Critically, cloud should be front of mind for new projects. Using traditional models risks not being future-proof or cost-effective. To maximise potential success cloud services should be built from the ground up. Finally, use pilot projects to help make the case internally. Cloud-washing has brought with it a war chest of misconceptions around risk: making a fact-based case based on real projects will be most effective at winning support internally.
4) The people issue: new tech, new skills, new culture IT will become more people-oriented, and more strategic, than ever before. It isn’t just the technology that needs to change: it’s you, too. Without the people and process in place, cloud simply won’t drive the increased productivity, efficiency and innovation you’re after. Consider what culture you need to cultivate in your department for a cloud-based future. What different skills will you need?
5) Consider co-innovation One of the potential future benefits of the cloud is the ‘app store’ model: selecting services online and bringing them into play almost instantly with a click of a mouse and a credit card transaction. But cloud is also changing the way service providers develop products: a more collaborative, customer-focused model is emerging. Whether a smaller project or a significant change, consider the benefits of working with an industry partner to develop something bespoke rather than off the shelf. This will help you direct what it delivers from cradle to grave.
Seeing the wood for the clouds
Boil it down, and cloud is just another way of acquiring services. But the hype has made it difficult to see the wood for the trees. CIOs need to strip away the black box around cloud. Consider first what business benefits you want to deliver for your organisation. Is cloud part of the solution? A gradual cloud evolution is ok. In fact, it’s the perfect strategy. But your legacy systems could be limiting your competitiveness: is this an evolution you need to start now?
BT and the cloud
Cloud is exciting and the hype isn’t groundless. It’s important to understand however that cloud is about services, not technology. It can deliver innovation, not just efficiency benefits. BT Global Services can help you understand the opportunity for your business and help negotiate your cloud journey, supported by a breadth of global experience. But we’re broad minded enough to know that the cloud might not be right for everything, right now. We know that the real solution – cloud or not – starts with you, and with services that help you create a better business and service for your customers. We’ll go beyond the buzzwords and ballyhoo. A truly networked IT services provider, we are trusted by thousands of companies and governments around the world to unlock the value already within their organisations. Whether managed network solutions or the latest in cloud services, we can be the partner that frees you to do what you do best.
The services described in this publication are subject to availability and may be modified from time to time. Services and equipment are provided subject to British Telecommunications plc’s respective standard conditions of contract. Nothing in this publication forms any part of any contract. British Telecommunications plc 2011. Registered office: 81 Newgate Street, London EC1A 7AJ Registered in England No: 1800000
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