Cloud, innovation and change

Cloud computing is a genuinely disruptive technology because it enables mobile centricity and changes how individuals and organisations engage with technology and data. On 19th April, Exponential-e hosted a seminar on Cloud computing, innovation and change. The seminar was about how organisations can deploy Cloud as a catalyst for innovation and change.

Steven Harrison, director of technology at NSD referenced Gartner’s concept of bi-modal IT, which involves splitting IT governance into two functions:

  • Traditional IT, emphasising safety and accuracy
  • Exploratory IT emphasising agility and speed

And – refreshingly – he disagreed with it! A bi-modal IT model runs the risk of creating two inadequate functions: one is backwards and the other is broken!

It might even encourage vendors to sell rubbish IT – they could sell outdated, end-of-life systems to the traditional element of the IT function, and untested and therefore unreliable products to the exploratory element.

Agile – being, not doing

Harrison believes that DevOps is the new differentiator as a driver of agility and innovation. However, agile means something different to each organisation. Agile is not about changing behaviours, but about maximising feedback and reacting to it faster while reducing business risk. DevOps can adjust systems to gather and respond to feedback – and users might not even notice. The key is to be agile rather than do agile – i.e. agile is about culture rather than process re-engineering.

Converging technology, including mobile, social, connected devices and big data place greater burdens on IT infrastructures as more interactions create more data to organise and manage. This is counter-intuitive to agility.

The solution is to outsource data storage and management to the Cloud. Cloud itself is not about innovation – but outsourcing systems of record will free up DevOps to innovate for agility. Because the internal IT function is part of the business, and understands its stakeholders, it is best placed to innovate in a way that responds to their needs and market forces.

A service model

Two Exponential-e clients explained how outsourcing to the Cloud has solved business issues.

Paul Morton, Divisional IT Manager, The Vita Group, Cellular Foams Division, explained how outsourcing specific functions to the Cloud was boosting agility across the business. Vita didn’t want special or private Cloud: they wanted a platform where they could do business as usual – only better. The biggest issue with outsourcing to the Cloud was loss of control. I particularly liked one comment about the relationship between IT and the rest of the business: ‘don’t call them users – they are not on drugs!’ Morton is developing a menu of Cloud services so that Vita’s federated business divisions could each choose the best way of delivering their services. Cloud, for Vita, was about adding ‘as a service’ to everything!

At Lewis Silkin LLP, Chief Operating Officer Jan DeCerce decided to outsource the firm’s data centre to the Cloud following the Holborn fire last year. The entire project, which involved moving more than 300 servers to the Cloud, took less than a year from inception to delivery. And none of the users (sorry!) noticed! This was about managing business risk while boosting agility – without changing processes or behaviours. DeCerce highlighted the law firm dilemma whereby much of the firm’s data is sensitive and subject to regulatory compliance, so needs to be controlled carefully, but working practices increasingly mean that remote and mobile access is required.

The use cases were presented by representatives of two very different organisations who both highlighted the importance of choosing a Cloud provider that they could call part of their team. In a nutshell: making Cloud part of the team frees up DevOps for bespoke innovation that can truly differentiate your business.

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