Everywhere you look there are clouds on the horizon. In fact, talk of the 'Cloud' has moved from industry trade pubs to you living room with a barrage of new consumer-oriented ads from Microsoft and others toting the virtues of Cloud Computing.
The consumerization and democratization of IT, which was sparked by an explosion of mobile devices, is now being accelerated by the rapidly expanding array of Cloud Computing alternatives.
Any corporate executive or end-user can unilaterally and clandestinely acquire business applications and other computing services with a credit card. In fact, they can easily sign up for free for 'try before you buy' services, and share them with their peers without IT involvement.
So, the siren call to every IT manager and CIO is blaring loud and clear – you can't hide from the intensifying Clouds which are closing in on you.
Smart IT leaders are quickly changing their attitudes and approach to this intensifying challenge by shifting from a reactive to a proactive stance regarding these trends.
Rather than simply respond to the latest end-user or executive Cloud initiative on a one-by-one basis, IT managers and CIOs should adopt a new approach for 2011 which I call the five E's of effective Cloud Computing management.
1) Embrace: The Cloud Computing phenomenon is increasingly producing tangible and measurable business benefits and isn't going away.
So don't fight it. Instead, put aside your biases, and you will find that allowing your business end-users to capitalize on various Cloud services can relieve the IT staff of many of their daily 'fire-drills' and headaches.
2) Encourage: Rather than appearing to be an obstacle to Cloud adoption and forcing your business units to go around your back, initiate an open dialog with your executives and end-users about their changing expectations and experiences experimenting with Cloud services. This can reduce the risks of any surprises, and enable you to better anticipate and satisfy their needs.
3) Evaluate: The beauty of today's Cloud Computing solutions is that corporate executives and end-users can more easily critique their functional capabilities and user-friendliness before selecting one to address their needs.
However, business decision-makers still need plenty of IT help looking 'under the hood' at how these offerings are architected, delivered and supported to ensure they can integrate with existing systems and fulfill their promises. IT managers and CIOs should put selection criteria, procurement procedures and governance policies in place to oversee the evaluation and contracting processes.
4) Engage: IT managers and CIOs should establish planning councils, vendor review boards and other mechanisms to proactively work with the business units to better understand their evolving needs and expectations, and ensure they are getting the maximum benefits from their Cloud vendors while mitigating the risks.
5) Educate: Establish a structured program that helps the business user fully understand the benefits and risks of Cloud alternatives so they make the right decisions to not only satisfy their immediate, tactical needs but also support the long-term, strategic interests of the overall organization.
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