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Cloudy With A Chance of Miracles…

Cloud will fail for the reasons just about every other IT initiative does and that is almost complete intractability of every Corporate IT department in the world and their ability to resist change. 

There will always be some reason why it can't work here. 

Of course there is lots of enthusiasm at the moment and lots of CIOs telling vendors and their peers that they are going great guns with Cloud; of course, they are surrounded by people telling them what they want to hear. I am sure that a lot of money is being spent on Cloud-enabled technology; the branding of VMware as some kind of magic cloud bean enables IT departments to say 'Yes, we're doing Cloud; look we've got lots of VMware deployed!'

These are the very same IT departments who five years ago who would have told you that they had embraced ITIL (and we can argue whether ITIL is a good or bad thing) but there sure were a lot of people claiming that they were implementing ITIL. Of course when you started to ask questions, they had implemented their own tweaked version of ITIL because ITIL wasn't really appropriate to their organisation. And then if you dug a bit more, what you actually found is that nothing had really changed and still the IT department merrily carried on in its own sweet way. 

And so I feel that most Cloud initiatives will be the same. Too many people with vested interests who are unwilling to expose their organisations to the level of change and scrutiny that is going to be needed to implement Cloud. 

I'm sure Chuck and other vendor 'leaders' talk to some very enthusiastic CIOs who are all about embracing the Cloud but in five years time will we be scratching our heads and asking what's changed? 

Cloud will be the new ITIL; just wait for Cloud v2 and Cloud v3.

But it really doesn't have to be this way however it needs some significant changes which are hard for many people to digest and get their head around. It's not all about IT people changing either.

Firstly, people need to understand the value of IT and not just the cost of IT. Let's take email for example; when email goes down, many companies seem to come to a grinding halt; so the email service has a value. The question needs to be asked what that value is, what can my company do now which it could not do without email. Perhaps it enables the company to communicate with its customers in a more timely manner and that has value. Do we actually know what that value is? Businesses need to ascribe value to the services that the IT department provide and perhaps they might come to the conclusion that they don't value some services.

Secondly, IT people need to stop operating under an atmosphere of fear; if the services provided are ascribed business value, some of the fear should be removed. Once value is understood, enhancing value is actually possible and perhaps at that point, implementing change to enhance value becomes an imperative not something to be resisted. IT people need to be proud of the service that they provide and not slightly ashamed; this is not about geek pride but a case of being able to say that we do a great job.

Thirdly, IT leaders need to stand up and say 'We believe what we do has value and we are not just a cost but we are looking for ways to improve the value of our service!' Too many IT leaders are falling into the trap of believing that their services are too expensive and hence find themselves in a constant spiral of negative evaluation. Actually most of them have little real idea as to what the value of the services that they provide actually is. 

Perhaps when you find such an organisation, let me know….I might want to work there!


  1. kostadis roussos says:

    > Perhaps when you find such an organisation, let me know….I might want to work there!
    The real question is whether IT is central to the business or tangential to the business.
    Organizations that are like the one you want tend to be companies that deploy hyper-scale applications on the intranet and where the cost/performance/availability are considered a strategic advantage to the company.
    Traditional manufacturing companies that sell real goods tend to care-less about IT because it is in support of their business not central to the business.

  2. Tom Petrocelli says:

    Very well put. Cloud computing, while it has it’s merits, is overhyped. I especially agree with the idea that we have to stress value (in other words revenue generating or cost cutting potential) of IT and just about anything else. It’s not what it costs, it’s what it does for the business.

  3. Martin G says:

    Even some very traditional companies are actually finding IT at the core of their business.
    For example, a friend of mine went to live in Canada and became an IT Architect for a large sawmill. I expressed some surprise that such a thing would either be interesting or really necessary. I was soon put right; without IT, the saw-mill no longer runs. From the emailed orders to the actual saws; it is an organisation which now has IT at its heart.

  4. Martin G says:

    Tom, I’m a big fan of what Cloud could do. It could make IT organisations think, something which most of them are pretty much incapable of doing so. But I suspect many of them will mould Cloud to pretty much resemble what they do today.
    Recently, someone quoted me the example of a large corporate which takes 45 days to provision a virtual host. But I suspect they can think of all kinds of reasons why this is the case and I also suspect that they are probably telling people that they have a virtualised and dynamic infrastructure.
    I think that we need a sea-change in IT culture but I am currently struggling to see it; especially in end-user organisations but even those vendors who have embraced Cloud, its probably only 10% of their employees who see it as something potentially transformational. It’s just a way to sell the same ol’ shit packaged in a different flaming newspaper.

  5. Chuck Hollis says:

    Hi Martin — nice to see you back at blogging.
    I can’t argue with much of what you’re saying. As most people will tell you, “cloud” isn’t something you buy, it’s something you do — it’s a new model for delivering IT services, so — in that regard — conceptual similarities with ITIL abound.
    I can’t argue with the perceived hype factor either, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. That sort of buzz usually presages a fundamental shift; cloud is no exception.
    I also would vehemently agree with the cultural aspects. A few years ago, I would have claimed that technology was the limiting factor. Today, it’s clearly people and process.
    That being said, there are bright points of light for many IT organizations that I meet: they’ve got the mandate, the will and the leadership to seriously undertake the proposition of doing things very differently than in the past. And it’s a pleasure to help them.
    Is cloud just another name for better IT? Certainly: nothing more, and nothing less. But that seems to be enough for most people 🙂
    — Chuck

  6. Martin G says:

    I think that you meet the leaders, not the followers or the laggards who make up most of the market, go and read Steve Dupelessie’s latest blog ( for more detail on leaders, followers and laggards.
    I think that most of the industry will continue to focus on cost, not value and continue to wonder why the hell they are constantly getting kicked by the CEO and the CFO. Cheaper, better and faster; you can have all three but you can’t implement change to do all three at the same time; concentrate on better and faster, I reckon the cheaper part of that will change to value. Unfortunately, we are still focussing on the cheaper mostly.

  7. Chuck Hollis says:

    Interestingly enough, our IT guys will go on record that you can have all three (faster, cheaper, better) at the same time simply by adopting cloud principles within mainstream IT — change how IT is built, operated and consumed. They’ve got the numbers to prove it as well — independently verified.
    Now, there’s the natural skepticism that results from them being a part of EMC, but I’m starting to see the pattern repeat itself elsewhere.
    The real issue is leaders vs. laggards. Many organizations just can’t imagine using IT to gain some sort of competitive advantage. Others are counting on it.
    Your mileage may vary …
    — Chuck

  8. Martin G says:

    I think it’s very much where you start your journey from but it’s incredibly hard to try and do all three things at once. If you actually set the objective to do all three, I think it becomes even harder; I really believe that the outcome of genuine Cloud computing is cheaper but I believe that is the result of investing in better and faster.
    The journey needs to be one of first, how do we do this better and perhaps part of that definition of better, faster comes out of it; then as we get faster and better, IT almost inevitably becomes more valuable and appears to become cheaper because you are getting a better return on your investment.

  9. Chuck Hollis says:

    Now here’s an area that’s worthy of debate — is it better to attempt to make incremental progress, or go for more disruptive change?
    Doing exactly what you did last year — only 10% better — won’t bring about substantive change. Revisiting basic assumptions (and the implied model) has a much better chance of delivering order-of-magnitude benefit.
    Where we’re finding good engagement is within larger IT organizations that want to fence off a portion of the IT landscape — and gain experience using that new model.
    Most senior executives expect 10% annual improvement as a matter of due course. But they really get excited when you can present a scenario for order-of-magnitude change.
    Thanks …
    — Chuck

  10. Martin G says:

    are they equally excited and more importantly satisfied by the reality after the scenario has been actualised? Cynical? Maybe, but I’ve spun many business cases and seen even more spun.
    Personally tho’ I would favour a more disruptive change but with very simple and measurable goals. I would set the bar fairly high for the improvements that I was seeking but I would want to ensure that they were easily and incontrovertibly measurable. Try to minimise the spin-factor and take out the ‘it depends on the way the wind is blowing’ fudge factor.

  11. Chuck Hollis says:

    True. There is no substitute for hard metrics. Indeed, I see so many IT initiatives that either overachieve or underachieve — but no one really knows! Other parts of the business are held under much greater scrutiny — why is it that IT is so often exempt?
    One of the best practices I’ve seen is the employment of external consultants to independently define and measure results. That’s what we do here internally.
    — Chuck

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