Rethink Your IT Strategy If You’re Serious About Cloud

Cloud – people can’t agree on exactly what it is, but everyone can agree that they want some piece of it. I have not talked to a single client who isn’t doing something proactively to pursue cloud in some form or fashion. This cloud-obsession was really evident in our 2011 technology tweet jam as well, which is why this year’s business technology and technology trends reports cover cloud extensively. Our research further supports this – for example, 29% of infrastructure and operations executives surveyed stated that building a private cloud was a critical priority for 2011, while 28% plan to use public offerings, and these numbers are rising every year.

So what should EAs think about cloud? My suggestion is that you think about how your current IT strategy supports taking advantage of what cloud is offering (and what it’s not). Here are our cloud-related technology trends along with some food for thought:

  • The next phase of IT industrialization begins. This trend points out how unprepared our current IT delivery model is for the coming pace of technology change, which is why cloud is appealing. It offers potentially faster ways to acquire technology services. Ask yourself – is my firm’s current IT model and strategy good enough to meet technology demands of the future?
  • The cloud applies pressure to IT economics. This trend points out the nuances of cloud economics. Pay-per-use is not always cheaper. EAs must understand application characteristics and consider the total cost of a cloud-based solution. Ask yourself – does my firm’s business case methodology consider cloud options, and if so, are costs realistically accounted for?
  • Elastic application platforms emerge to handle variable scale and portfolio balancing. This trend identifies an emerging “cloud-optimized” architecture that is built to scale out and in as needed. Ask yourself – are your future applications being built to take advantage of pay-per-use and elastic scale? They need to be if they are going to run efficiently in the cloud.
  • Platform-as-a-service crosses the chasm. PaaS is one way cloud is expediting developing elastic, cloud-scale applications; however, many firms are still on the fence about it. Ask yourself – are you planning on leveraging PaaS? Do you understand it?
  • Improved virtualization sets the stage for private cloud. This trend calls out the need for most firms to improve their virtualization practices before tackling a real private cloud. Ask yourself – are you really ready for private cloud from an I&O process and virtualization maturity perspective?
  • Network architecture evolves to meet cloud demands. In this trend, we call out a change that is happening in the bowels of our infrastructure – network architecture is flattening and going virtual because it must to support demand for cloud-like service levels. Ask yourself – how ready is your infrastructure to meet the demands that private cloud you are thinking about will bring?

If you are like most clients I talk to, your existing IT delivery model and strategy doesn’t answer many of the questions raised. How will your applications evolve to be cloud-efficient? How will you make good business cases for cloud cost and benefit? How will your existing IO processes and practices evolve to capture cloud benefits? Finally, what kind of IT organization does your firm need if it is highly cloud optimized? You might find that IT becomes less of a service delivery organization and more of a broker.


"So what should EAs think

"So what should EAs think about cloud"? For example, a blog post "Relationships between Enterprise Architecture (EA, #entarch) and #cloud computing"


Can the cloud it provide time for IT to stop and listen?

What does cloud mean to business? – Can it provide time for the IT department to stop and listen.

Cloud has the potential to diminish a lot of the role of the I&O department. If infrastructure is elastically purchased as needed and turned on with the flick of a visa number then the weeks / months of infrastructure project work and years of operational maintenance is no longer needed or at least greatly reduced.


What will technology do with the spare time? I truly hope it can be spent actually listening & understanding their businesses and becoming more of a Business Technology department than a dated IT department -

That's what we mean by "cloud broker"

We see leading IT shops with cloud-optimized services shifting to become brokers vice deliverers.

Business strategy drives cloud adoption

Enterprise IT organizations should view cloud computing as an integral part of its IT strategy. The implication is that IT should understand the business strategy and partner with business to identify business services ideal for cloud computing to drive the cloud strategy.


Makes sense, but my our data suggest that this is only happening in pockets. The infrastructure guys are talking private IaaS, app Dev is talking PaaS or SaaS integration, security is turning red in frustration, and business cases are under estimating true cloud costs. EAs need to "pull it all together".

RE: Business strategy drives cloud adoption


I would also add to the “cloud chaos” you described, business bypassing internal IT to buy cloud services from providers like Amazon, etc… because it’s faster and cheaper, without necessarily considering end to end service levels, security, compliance and other key enterprise constraints.

I agree, for organizations with a chartered EA team, EA should provide the overall strategic direction grounded in business strategy to guide cloud adoption. However, for organizations with no chartered EA, Enterprise IT should collaborate with business to formulate an effective cloud adoption strategy.

In fact, I would argue that without significant business participation, the results of all these XaaS initiatives will be sub-optimal and in some cases a waste of resources (with no one using the services).


Think about EA as a practice not a chartered team

Thanks Shepard....we see many firms w/o a charted EA team, as you point out. That doesn't make the practice of EA any less present or valuable. I think having a central accountability for the execution of EA practices (usually by a small team of EAs and a large extended team of practitioners) is a good thing. Regardless, agree that w/o business participation, the "IT strategy" yields suboptimal results.

We are reflecting this attitude in our research direction by promoting that the starting point of EA efforts is business strategy and business architecture - in the case of this blog, the internal IT dialog starts something like this, "How do we as a company position our products, services, processes, people and technology to fully take advantage of the fundamental shift cloud makes in technology acquisition and use".

Since this is too high level to have much meaning to pragmatic business people, we suggest the dialog actually start with a discussion of business capabilities to define the outcomes desired.

why are businesses bypassing IT?

Then the question comes down to why are businesses bypassing IT? What are we not providing or doing that is forcing our people to go around IT.

I’d propose that you can have all the EA team you like but if you still don’t really listen and engage with your business in a way that is light years above the current efforts of most IT departments IT will continue to be worked around and businesses will be the poorer for it.

It’s up to the EA and IT leadership to find a bridge in their business and I’d propose that it is in part becoming more of a Business Technology team – re-launch IT.

That’s what I’m getting at in my fledging BT blog posted at the top of this string.