Monday, February 3, 2014

Making the journey into the Cloud

Taking organisations from reactive to innovative

Businesses today depend upon IT to drive innovation and accelerate past competitors. While each organisation may have its own unique definition of innovation, many of the elements remain common. This is according to NETCB’s CEO Cobus Burgers.

He says the goal is getting closer to customers to help deliver business goals, delivering more compelling services than key competitors and making an increasingly mobile workforce more productive and effective.

Maintaining existing IT systems consumes the majority of budgets, leaving little to reinvest in growing the business. That's why an increasing number of IT organisations leverage cloud technology to break this cycle and unlock resources to fuel innovation.

IT is further challenged by the need to deliver all of this more rapidly than ever and with tight budget constraints while still supporting service levels for performance, governance and security. To boost their responsiveness, businesses seek to complement their internal data centres with the agility and cost-effectiveness of a public cloud, which leverages existing investments.

Those organisations most successfully leveraging cloud technology have transformed two major areas of IT, the technology required to build a cloud infrastructure and the core operating model needed to gain the greatest benefit from this new technology foundation.

These businesses have embraced cloud as a cohesive strategy, examining how to build and operate or rent their cloud environments, while measuring the efficiency, agility and reliability improvements of cloud computing.

Burgers says across the African continent, successes are growing. “For many established businesses and new start-ups, IT has become a driving force for business results, unlocking vital revenue streams, rapidly capitalising on new business opportunities, disrupting markets and recasting competitive landscapes.”

“It has moved on from being a cost centre to become a clear strategic partner to the business, delivering clear value and differentiation – and aligning with key business objectives.

However other IT organisations are struggling to find this same kind of success. Burdened with brittle, siloed infrastructures and outdated approaches to systems management, they find themselves working hard just to support existing systems. With resources and budgets dedicated to maintaining the status quo, IT finds itself continually running to keep up with a growing backlog of requests from the business for new services.

Those caught in this reactive mode find it all but impossible to invest in the kinds of systems and services that would grow the business and deliver innovative new ways of operating. In these organisations, there is a growing tension between IT and the business.

Continued delays in delivering the services that drive revenue and operations are putting organisations at a serious competitive disadvantage. Line of business stakeholders, frustrated with IT’s ability to deliver the capabilities they require, often go out and acquire IT services and business applications themselves, outside of traditional IT procurement channels.

With attractive pricing and business models, and the benefit of self-service, on-demand access to services, line of business stakeholders often see public cloud and SaaS providers as a path to rapid innovation.

The truth is that there is a danger inherent in this kind of ad-hoc approach to IT delivery. While it may well offer an immediate solution to a pressing business challenge, this approach carries significant near and long-term risk with it as well.

IT cannot ensure that innovation happens in a way that concurrently protects the organisation. Public cloud providers have diverse, often unclear, standards for security, compliance and governance. Sensitive data can easily sit outside the business without robust, IT-led security measures.

The rush for action today to drive innovation creates tomorrow’s silos of technology. Creating multiple pools of disparately run and managed infrastructure limits IT’s ability to leverage common management environments, to drive automation or reduce OPEX.

Lack of portability across environments limits IT’s ability to migrate workloads to best manage cost, risk, and quality of service. This becomes particularly important as applications grow and play a more strategic role in the business, demanding significantly higher service levels.

Without embracing new models, IT organisations continue to be reactive: exhausting resources to support existing systems and failing to free up resources to deliver critical new business services.

Increasingly, IT is looking to cloud computing as a way to break this cycle. The aim? To form a new partnership with business stakeholders based upon the ability to deliver innovation and build business value.

Cloud empowers IT to redefine the way services are produced and delivered for the business. The goal isn’t to merely become a more efficient, reliable and agile IT organisation – although cloud certainly delivers that. Rather, the goal is to operate in a fundamentally different way – more flexible and responsive to business needs.

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