Cloud computing might seem on the surface to be a cause of potential discord between the ICT team and the other parts of the business. Business users, knowing they can flexibly and cheaply fire up applications to handle many standard tasks, will seek to do this without involving ICT.
But in practice, say panellists at a cloud session at the NZ Oracle User Group conference last week in Wellington, the effect will be beneficial, giving the ICT department a means of concentrating on the unique aspects of the company's business -- their market differentiators.
Changing the relationship between business and ICT as a result of the rise of cloud can be "a massive positive", says Doug Hughes, vice president responsible for Oracle's Fusion cloud services in Asia-Pacific.
An ICT department charged with providing computer services to the whole business can become enmeshed in complex "business transformation" projects, where generally they "over-promise and under-deliver". When the business people get an economical software-as-a-service solution "IT says 'that doesn't comply with the strategy we've been developing for the past 15 years; you've caused big problems.' The reply is 'IT: they did it because you're not delivering.'"
Get them together in a constructive atmosphere and they'll see "the opportunity exists for cloud to take a lot of the mess and noise away", he says, "so IT can focus on being a true business partner," asking the key questions about the true needs of each of the business's functional teams. It may be that these needs are simple, but every team is being forced to participate in a major upgrade.
Cloud allows the in-house ICT team to get rid of the commodity items; those that are run much the same in any business, says Paul Armstrong, strategy services manager and cloud solution architect at Fronde. "Just looking after an email system can spin the wheels of an IT department in ways you don't want to know about. Mail is incredibly important to your business, but it's not your core business." The same applies even to database management, says Joe Ziegler, Amazon's AWS evangelist. "You could have the best database administrator in the world and all it'll get you is a great database platform; you're not actually differentiating yourself in the business."
"We're not trying to take away anything from the IT department", says Steven Ponsford of Revera. "We're giving them the absolute latest to provide a more effective base for the business's ICT plans than the seven-year-old hardware a typical in-house ICT team might be using."
ICT gets "the nuts and bolts working" at the start, but after that it's common for them to "allow the project managers in the business units to request individual allocations of resource [from a cloud provider like Revera]." That helps the efficiency of the business and it's good for ICT, he says; "they don't have to be concerned with spinning up a couple of virtual machines every time someone expresses a need."
ICT teams are vulnerable to spending years developing systems that quickly become outmoded, says Hughes. In response to a suggestion from the audience, panellists agreed there are similarities between cloud versus cumbersome in-house development and the agile versus waterfall/iterative styles of development. Rather than trying to define all needs up front, cloud allows business units to fail and learn constructively with their applications.