Cloud politics: the CIO's difficult balancing act

Advice Mark Samuels Jan 18, 2013

The arrival of cloud computing means CIOs change their approach to procurement, what strategy works best?

The changing nature of supply-side IT relations means the CIO is in danger of being left out in the cold. With line-of-business executives able to purchase their own technology from the cloud, does an organisation really require a dedicated technology chief?

Analyst firm Gartner recognises line-of-business executives are increasingly bypassing IT departments to buy applications on-demand. Such purchases can be made without recourse to the traditional IT department. Once the cloud service is no longer required, business executives can simply cancel the subscription.

Security concerns
Tim Welburn, IT director at engineering specialist Babcock, says use of the cloud by the business is undoubtedly set to increase. CIOs must take a stand now and create a strategy for on-demand IT purchasing. There remain, says Welburn, big concerns around the security of information held online. Executives at all levels are rightly concerned about the potential for data to cross national boundaries and to compromise data regulations.

But Welburn asks a pertinent question when he wonders how many non-IT business leaders really understand where their data is held, and whether IT resources are provisioned on-demand or in-house. He believes that, as the quality of service matures, more and more business will have to consider on-demand technology. The politically savvy CIO will set the agenda now for cloud adoption across the business.

“There will always be pioneers and people with nasty experiences, but we’ll get there eventually,” says Welburn. “Being scalable and secure is the key to success. And the cloud would be a natural starting point if you were starting an IT department now in a small company.”

The politically savvy CIO will set the agenda now for cloud adoption across the business

Use of on-demand IT is not just confined to small firms and niche departments of larger organisations. Cloud-first has been an integral element of media giant News International’s approach to IT for the last two years. CIO Chris Taylor is helping his business colleagues understand the crucial role of the cloud and its many different technical flavours.

“I don’t buy the concept of the private cloud,” he says. “There are distinct approaches to the cloud, namely the utility-based public cloud and external hosting. The private cloud is something different and is best viewed as a virtualised internal data centre. In that sense, it’s not true on-demand computing. And I think CIOs should either embrace the cloud, and its benefits, to the full extent or they should steer clear. You're either in it or you’re not.”

Taylor has every desire to increase use of the cloud at News International. He has intentionally frozen internal data centre purchasing at the firm. Any new growth of hardware resources at the business has to be accounted for by the cloud. Taylor has created the strategy for on-demand adoption, and the business is already a heavy user of Google Apps and Salesforce.com. Other key cloud services for the media giant include Amazon Web Services and the cloud application platform Heroku.