Cloud Adoption Tension: IT vs Business

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ben Kepes


A while ago I took part in a role playing exercise run by BMC software.

It was an event that had its genesis, at least in part, in a discussion I had with the analyst relations team at BMC about the realities of commentating on the cloud landscape.

And the fact that adoption is so often much more than a feature comparison exercise but one of a political struggle that really is a minefield for the uninitiated.

BMC was telling me about real world cloud planning workshops they run with customers. I expressed an interest in this services aspect of their portfolio and suggested that it would be a great idea to give analysts a taste of what was involved. All that came together nicely in a workshop attended by a handful of industry analysts.

Over on ReadWriteWeb Scott Fulton has a run down of the exercise but suffice it to say that a small selection of industry analysts got together with BMC staffers to create a hypothetical situation where a large pharmaceutical company was planning a cloud migration – or more correctly had business units already using the cloud and wanted to gain visibility into all the systems in use across the organization.

As Fulton rightly points out:

"This is the situation more and more businesses are facing: not moving their assets out of the data center and into a public or hybrid cloud, but rather gathering up those assets that have already been moved, and bringing them back under the firewall and back into compliance."

While the session itself was a chance for BMC to talk about the consulting services it offers to businesses and to touch on the functional attributes of its own Cloud Lifecycle Manager product, the session was far more important, in my view, as an aid for those of us who spend more time analyzing and less time within enterprises to understand the different tensions that exist within an organization.

These were well demonstrated by the two teams in this particular role play – on one side was the IT department, while on the other was the R&D team. While over simplifying the tensions, the workshop did point out the range of drivers. On the side of IT it’s all about security, control and transparency.

On the side of the business, however, it’s simply years of frustration at slow and cumbersome IT procurement processes – they simply want to get stuff done.

It’s probably fair to say that we’re still in the Wild West of cloud adoption – direct business unit acquisition of cloud services (rogue IT anyone?) is going strong and IT tends to have a very aggressive and heavy handed approach towards averting the risks.

But this situation – anarchy on one side and big brother tendencies on the other — cannot continue much longer. We need to find ways to find a common middle ground where business units gain the agility and flexibility they need, while IT maintains sufficient control to guarantee compliance with regulations and policies.

This is where a whole new range of startups are coming in – from those working on the visibility of cloud spend (disclosure – I’m an investor and adviser to Cloudability, a vendor in this space), to those working on facilitating the creation and management of cloud services (an area that enStratus is setting the world on fire).

The big areas for growth going forward are in the companies that provide a spanning layer across multiple heterogeneous products – at whatever level of the stack.

It was interesting a few weeks ago to take part in a private cloud summit in the financial industry. At that event I spent a lot of time talking with investment funds, bankers and the like. The regular question I got was around what are the big potential areas of win in the cloud, and what products or services will really drive general cloud adoption.

As I said there, we’re entering a phase where cohesiveness is valuable – any company that has an answer, or even part of an answer, to the tension between IT and business is a good candidate for investment.

It’s an interesting space – the BMC workshop gave me a real degree of clarity around the issues we’re facing.

Cross-posted from Diversity

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