I have a cool job where I spend half my time with business executives (C-level, OPS, Sales) and the other half of my time with technical people (programmers, geeks, super-duper-geeks). When it comes to Cloud Technologies, I am astonished with the different understandings and perspectives of these two groups, especially with CEOs and other C-level executives. Most C-level executives fall into three groups:
- Reluctant/Doesn’t-See-Value: Execs who don’t know much about Cloud Technologies, readily admit it, and don’t think about the Cloud because they do not see the business value
- Anxious Do-It Types: Execs who don’t know much about Cloud Technologies, but won’t admit it, and are afraid their company is not implementing Cloud Technology fast enough
- Cloud or Nothing: Business and IT leaders, generally “young” in attitude, who have significant experience leveraging the Cloud and will apply a Cloud strategy whenever possible
So, why should C-level executives care about the Cloud? It’s not because of cost, it’s because the Cloud can enable businesses to be:
- Agile: remove up to half of the complexity in technology solutions and adapt to change faster
- Business-Focused: outsource non-value added expensive data-center tasks and instead focus on business impact
- User Centric: most cloud applications are modern and much easier to use than legacy apps
Flavors of Cloud
When people talk about “Cloud Computing”, they are referring to one of three major types of technology:
SaaS: Software as a Service:
You use business enablement tools via a web browser or mobile app.
No hardware/servers to manage. No software to develop.
PaaS: Platform as a Service
You develop & use custom tools to manage your specific needs.
You do not need to manage any hardware/servers.
IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service
Your data center is hosted and maintained by your vendor.
You still manage the instance of the hardware (virtual machine)
So how to leverage the Cloud and the 3 different acronyms (SaaS v. PaaS v. IaaS)? The game plan below is blue print to start leveraging the Cloud to remove IT complexity from your organization so you can start focusing on your core competencies and get out of the tedious and expensive business of non-value IT work.
Low Hanging Fruit
These are the no-brainers and quick wins
- Options: Office365 or Gmail
- Justification: hosting your own email server is overhead and risk you don’t need. Ask Hillary Clinton… seriously, your email server needs constant security & spam filtering updates, it will eventually run out of disk space, and cause headaches. When your email goes down, does it impact your business? Of course it does! Outsource to one of the big players and don’t worry about it. Concerned about security? Do you really think your company has more & better security resources than Microsoft or Google?
- Options: Dropbox for Business, Box, OneDrive, Google Drive
- Justification: Makes collaboration much easier. If you’re a road warrior, you can access your files from a phone or tablet. They support versioning, meaning if you revert to an older version of your file (life saver for sales presentations gone awry)
- Options: Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, Highrise, Greenrope
- Justification: For Sales people to use a system, it must be frictionless and mobile-friendly. You will not have the resources to keep your custom build CRM up-to-date w/ the leading CRM Cloud providers, particularly for mobile enabled functionality. Having mobile tools that read and save data to the Cloud is a security plus (b/c no data on the smart phone)
Use PaaS to build applications for your IT-ignored Line of Business / OPS execs
- Options: Salesforce1, Azure, CloudFoundry
o Corporate IT departments spend a majority of their time supporting legacy systems and any additional capacity focuses on building features for new or existing clients. Rarely does a COO or Operations executive get attention from their corporate IT department to improve on internal-facing systems
o Using a Platform as a Service (PaaS), you can build applications without worrying about IT infrastructure “stuff” (hardware, servers, load balancers, messaging frameworks, and other “plumbing” frameworks)
o Enable your Line of Business executives to use Platform as a Service (PaaS) to build applications to enable new services/products or improve operational efficiencies
Migrate production system to IaaS
- Options: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Rackspace, Google Compute Engine, Digital Ocean
o If you run your company on a custom built application…
- Track how much attention is given to keep the system “up”
- Ask your software development manager how much production support issues are due to hardware or infrastructure issues
- Are there issues w/ supporting a growing user base?
o You can move your custom application to a IaaS environment without massive code changes and reduce your dependency on managing a data center and physical server and the associated headaches and costs that go along with it
Large Investment / Phased Implementation
Migrate legacy production system to PaaS
- Options: Salesforce1, Azure, CloudFoundry
o Many legacy systems have grown in complexity over a long period of time and are very expensive to maintain
o Simple changes take a lot of effort and have long project cycle times
o You can try to refactor the existing system, but due to dependencies and aging technology constraints, it’s probably easier to build the system from scratch (Cloud or non-Cloud)
Cloud Technologies offer C-level executives a way to make their company more AGILE and REVENUE TECHNOLOGY focused with stronger USER SATISFACTION. Understand the basic three flavors of Cloud (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS) and work with IT-ignored business leaders who do not have tools or systems to implement operational efficiencies. Measure the impact simple Cloud-based applications can have on Line of Business activities and then learn the right balance of Cloud Technologies for your company.