Convincing the Business to Embrace the Cloud: A New IT Mindset is Key

When it comes to transforming your traditional IT operation, convincing business users to embrace your new cloud architecture can be an uphill battle.

As I noted in my last blog, EMC IT initially provided infrastructure to our business users free of charge and stepped up our guaranteed service levels to convince them to adopt our new infrastructure. Virtualization and multi-tenancy were creating tremendous cost and efficiency benefits.

Nonetheless, we faced an interesting phenomenon—even though our infrastructure was free, some business units were still opting to work around us and spend real money on services.  It really caused us to pause, and ask, “Why is this happening?”

Ultimately, the way we were delivering services was very much out of alignment with the way the business wanted to consume services. Users told us at the outset of the transformation that we were too prescriptive and too restrictive. “You’re not letting me do what I want to do. You’re not solving my problem.”

We weren’t giving them the agility that they needed because, even though we were able to provision things quickly, we were putting them through the same old IT processes and governance. We still had all these layers of prioritization and “demand management” that were established years ago because the company wanted to run IT like a regulated monopoly with the CIO as a spigot to regulate spending.  If you put enough gates in the process, eventually people give up.  That was hurting us, big-time.

With EMC Consulting’s help, we initiated an IT-as-a-Service, or cloud operating model, transformation stage.  These are the attributes that define that model for us:

    • Self-provisioning: Putting the power of provisioning into the hands of the consumer is infinitely more valuable than doing it yourself as an IT shop, no matter how responsive you are.
    • Consumption-funded: We can’t be a charity and we can’t be subsidizing consumption.  The consumption has to have a price.  The units of consumption have to matter and enable the business unit to have some control over.  So, if the business wants to and needs to consume more, they have to pay more.  If they can consume less, they should be charged less.
    • Automated deployment:  This automation enables you to drive your costs down and drive your quality up.  The more things you’re doing manually, the more problems you can unintentionally introduce, the longer it takes to do and the more costly it becomes.
    • Transparent pricing and service levels:  In order to have a consumption-funded model, you have to have transparency around pricing.  One of the key things that we had to work through the thick heads of all of us in IT was that, in this new world, we have an obligation to be competitive.  We are no longer entitled to anything because our users don’t have to come through us anymore.  We have to prove our worth by having a better price, a higher service level, and better value.  To do that, we have to be transparent.
    • Built-in Security and GRC:  We also need to be building security in, as opposed to bolting it on.  Bolting it on makes everything slower and makes everything work much less efficiently than it would otherwise.  If you design it in, you can make it more seamless and maximize efficiency.
    • Brokered, as well as Built:  The other thing that we had to get good at is realizing that to be competitive means that we’re not going to be doing everything ourselves.  There are some things that we need to buy as a service and some things that we should build.There are some things we do better and some things others do better.  When we buy something, it doesn’t mean that we get out of the way and let the business go directly to the provider; it means that we have accountability for it as an IT service.  In some cases, maybe we even white-label it or brand it as ours.  That’s a different mindset and a different business model than IT was used to in the past.
    • Standardized Service Offerings:  Ultimately, underneath all of this is this whole concept of having standardized services.  In sales, you’re not encouraged to go out and sell custom offerings . . . you’re encouraged to sell the configurations we have “on the truck.”  The traditional world of IT was one hundred percent customized.  We are trying to get to as close to zero percent customized as possible and having a set of SKUs that map to business use cases and needs that we can provision or they can provision themselves in an automated fashion instantaneously.

So even though our focus was to convince the business to embrace our new cloud operating model, the task was really to reinvent ourselves as more of a professional services organization. You will find this is an ongoing process. It takes time to transform the longstanding mindset of limiting demand for IT services to being responsive to business demands and competing for their business. We are still not done, but have made significant strides.

Watch this space for further insights into stages of EMC’s IT Transformation and lessons learned that might help your organization on its journey to a new IT operating model.

About the Author: Jon Peirce