Cloud-Centered IT Must Consider the “Whole Pie”, Even if the Strategy is To Take A Slice At A Time.
Until recently, discussions of what cloud computing can offer seemed isolated to specific departments: sales executives looking for sales automation, marketing officers looking for campaign management, and even IT directors looking at automating or outsourcing administration of systems. Everyone was solving their narrow problems without considering the greater whole.
In my recent article for SAP Insider: “End-to-End Business Processes in the Cloud – A Tour of Today’s Business ByDesign”, I show how cloud computing can also become basis for transforming entire companies. ERP Software as a Service offerings (SaaS) such as SAP Business ByDesign are key to this by:
- Managing common processes through best practices
- Reinforcing competitive advantages with customization
- Keeping companies agile by reducing technical complexity
As depicted in Figure 1 below, the ByDesign solution supports these capabilities through three main components: a single comprehensive application, a tightly integrated platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and by providing these over the Internet as a cloud service running in SAP’s own data centers.
In this blog, I want to lay out some What’s Your Strategy for #Cloud Computing? Cloud-Centered IT, Cloud-Attached IT or Cloud Unattached IT? concepts behind these components.
Role of IT and the CIO in Cloud Computing
Some pundits are saying it’s the end of IT as we know it as a result of cloud computing. Personally, I disagree with this statement since IT is one of the few groups within a company that can take a holistic horizontal view of the entire business and its needs, and design comprehensive solutions. Cloud computing, however, is fundamentally changing how IT delivers solutions to the company as a result of increased automation of formerly manual technical tasks. As a result, the job skills of the IT staff will shift to being more business process experts and cloud services architects.
Another thing to consider is that employees and management are far more technically savvy than even ten years ago. That, coupled with the easy to acquire software as a service offerings available these days, is allowing departments to create powerful shadow IT teams. These are not going away, but its important to understand that while they are excellent in solving their departments own specific problems, these shadow IT teams need help designing their solutions to fit company-wide needs, and often stink at basic IT functions such as collecting and prioritizing requirements and ongoing maintenance.
Thus, the new role of IT is not centralizing the information function, but herding the decentralized information function and collaborating with the collective. As shown in Figure 2 below, the coordination IT can provide is helping develop and guide a company-wide cloud strategy that includes familiar dimensions such as:
- Ensuring security & compliance
- Fostering the work of your people
- Managing & automating business processes
- Providing high quality information and analytics
- Facilitating and spreading innovation
It is for this reason, and along these lines that IT and the CIO can add value by coordinating a holistic cloud-centered strategy for the entire business.
Supporting common vs. differentiating operations
When implementing enterprise software to support your operations, either on premise or as a service, you first need an understanding of what is unique about your business operations, and whether this uniqueness is an ingredient of your competitive advantage. With cloud-based services, especially applications, technical build out is minimized, and the services are typically highly configurable. Stock capabilities of software as a service are typically based on industry best practices for that business process. This lets you take more of an iterative agile approach to rolling out these kinds of solutions.
With the fast implementation of SaaS, you can often try out configured best practices and use this as a starting point to determine what, if any, gap exists in your companies needs. Where possible, it’s to your advantage to try and adopt capabilities provided by the software via configuration. Where you find gaps that need customized solutions, a platform as a service (PaaS) lets you create these custom solutions in the cloud, extending the business processes and objects of your core ERP SaaS.
Slices of pie
When you consider a holistic cloud IT strategy along the dimensions mentioned above with a focus on standardizing your common operations on best practices, a comprehensive ERP SaaS solution such as SAP Business ByDesign can provide an effective nucleus for your strategy.
Even if your approach is to address departmental requirements, basing your solutions on a broader suite will provide the flexibility for you to iteratively add additional functionality as it makes sense in such a way that holistically supports your IT strategy. For example, with SAP Business ByDesign, you can begin with a starter package addressing a business process such as Order-to-Cash or Market-to-Opportunity. Then you can increase scope to enable additional work centers and associated business processes, or install partner apps from the SAP Store, all of which leverage the base information and security infrastructure provided in ByDesign. And, should you find yourself unable to configure the capabilities you need to support your requirements, the ByDesign Studio provides a tightly integrated PaaS that allows your implementation partners to develop a custom extension that resides within your cloud tenant, and leverages the same base platform.
More Cloud Strategy
If you’d like to learn and discuss more cloud-centered IT strategy related to SAP solutions, I recommend checking out the SAP Community Network Cloud Community.
Attributions for images above:
Sandwich assembly line: http://www.flickr.com/photos/evelynishere/2757068138/
Images are free to use according to creative commons license. Figure 1 diagram is creative commons licensed as a derivative work.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Pictograms in Figure 2 are copyright of SAP, not for use without permission.