It’s an age-old controversy — somewhere between the “chicken/egg” endless loop and a declaration of all-out war — and the gauntlet was thrown down again recently at Focus.com. Pitting the suits against the geeks, BrainWave Consulting’s Andrew S. Baker innocently asked: “Who drives the move to the cloud? Business or IT?”
If you want start a contentious conversation, simply do the following:
- Bring up “The Cloud” at work (you’ll find as many definitions as there are folks who use it)
- Make folks pick sides about ultimate ownership (fight! fight!)
- Stir in the inherent friction between business and IT (for good measure)
Voila! — you have an engaging exchange that’s hard not to follow. Think train wreck, but not as ugly and much more insightful.
Spoiler alert: There was no absolute winner. Here’s how the passions played out.
Coming down firmly for the pro-IT camp (with thoughtful caveats), IS thought-leader Richard Bird is of the opinion that the cloud “is a technology choice, and therefore should be driven by IT.” He softens his stance with a proviso that IT leaders must stay ahead of the curve on advances in tech so they can speak intelligently to business types. To keep their arguments from becoming defensive, Bird wisely encourages IT folks to keep an open mind; avoid living in the past, married to an existing solution into which they’ve invested blood, sweat, toil, tears, and “many hours and dollars.” Finally, he recommends backing that stance with cold, hard facts—compare the cost of going cloud with the current solution, perform a risk analysis, and analyze any customer impact. The result? An objective report with recommendations “that can be reviewed by your C-level managers so they can make a good business decision.” Win-win!
Business got its props from Edgerton Coble, sales enablement strategist at Philips Healthcare. He put it point-blank: “Business. Without business, there is no IT department. I find it humorous when the tail decides to wag the dog.” Sure, IT should offer guidance and alert the business side to potential risks, Coble asserts. But he also matter-of-factly notes that “most of the risks are moot. A server farm on site has an equal chance of going offline as a cloud solution.” Coble even plays devil’s advocate, commiserating with IT folks and acknowledging their fears: “[In] a down economy, many view these moves as just a way to reduce head count and a threat to IT staff.” However, his coda brings home his assertion that business drives cloud adoption, while providing a light at the end of the tunnel for IT. He advises that the wise IT department “will see this as an opportunity to make improvements for the business. It also allows IT to take a more strategic and consultative role.” Nicely played.
Perhaps the real answer lies in diffusing the situation; Don Babcock, lead analyst at Wake Forest Baptist Health, redirects the argument entirely (and deftly). OK, Don, so who does drive the move to the cloud? Business or IT? “Neither and both,” he says. His take is that the market drives business to the cloud. “Ultimately it’s about competition,” he explains, reminding all involved that “the competition” doesn’t live down the hall or in the next office, but beyond a business’s perimeters. “IT provides services that business needs.…The optimal arrangement is when you have a business unit that is clear about what it really needs (the WHAT, not the HOW) and respects the IT folks to exercise their expertise in providing for that need (the HOW).” Don Babcock, FTW!
What do you think? Who’s driving the move to the cloud? Has IT got its hand on the wheel, while business floors the accelerator pedal—or vice versa? Weigh in with your comments!
Alec Wagner is a writer, editor, custom content specialist, and content marketing professional. A former managing editor of infoworld.com, he has trained his eye on the enterprise technology space for more than a dozen years. A longtime digital nomad, he divides his time between San Francisco and the South of France. He remembers to thank The Cloud daily for enabling his globetrotting ways. Mr. Wagner also enjoys lively debates about how warring tribes (be it business vs. IT, dev vs. ops, or sales vs. marketing) can find ways to work together better. He is of the opinion that the old chestnut, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ ” is quite hackneyed, yet altogether true.