We spoke to our EMEA CTO, Joe Baguley, recently about our Covert Cloud research, and the impact the trends identified in the study are having on businesses.
As IT decision makers across EMEA look to develop their IT infrastructure to support a move towards the cloud, we asked Joe to offer up some advice to ensure the IT department keeps up with changing business and employee demands.
In light of the Covert Clouds research, what advice do you have for IT teams looking to deploy a new project?
First and foremost, work with the business, not for it. Given the power and flexibility of any cloud-based system, it now isn’t simply a case of just rolling out a one-size-fits-all solution without taking into account the needs of the business, its employees or even specific groups of employees. IT decision makers can suffer from the problem of delivering a complicated solution they think the user wants, rather than delivering a much more efficient system that the user actually needs.
Does this mean we should devolve the buying of IT to the line of business departments?
The risk is that as it becomes easier to purchase cloud-based services, the IT department could be increasingly side-lined. Ultimately, businesses are not run by the IT department. However, it does have to be part of any conversation around IT, because in the end it is the one responsible for delivering many of these services. If the IT department wants to ensure it will always have a seat at the table, it must better align itself with the needs of the business. The increase in covert clouds that we’re seeing is a result of a company’s current IT operating system not being completely adequate for the way that its end users need to operate to meet their goals, so they’re sidestepping the ‘official’ IT channels to get what they need.
What are the consequences of users and departments continuing to buy cloud services covertly? Is there is a risk you could end up with incompatible solutions and a big management headache for the IT team to sort out?
This is a valid point and shows why the IT team needs to be involved as a service curator. Instead of just saying ‘no, you can’t do that’ when a department tries to buy external cloud services, you should ask them what they are trying to achieve. The IT team should be able to demonstrate they can help that department do this, through the ‘official’ channels; in a way that is not just better than what the department was originally looking at but also fits in with what IT needs to do to meet legal and compliance requirements. It is moving from being a dictator to someone who is a responsible service provider.
Think of it this way – you should consider your users as consumers. The reason they were originally called users is because as an IT department you allowed them to use your computer system. However, this doesn’t reflect the current relationship. Now IT departments are dealing with employees who have a consumer mindset and this fundamentally changes the underlying relationship. The reason consumer cloud solutions are so good is because they exist in a competitive market which has forced them to be the best, whereas the IT function has no competition, so it is utterly unprepared for competing with consumer solutions.
What steps should the IT team take if it discovers these covert applications?
Start by going on a fact finding mission. Identify who is using covert cloud applications and evaluate what the usage is in your company. Then you can work out how to embrace it, develop a comparable service and then establish what you need to do with your consumers (rather than users) to come up with common shared policies to ensure these services are used effectively.
Behind all of this is the need for IT departments to work out what is going on and encourage a culture of openness and honesty. Most of the covert cloud activity is what can be termed ‘positive deviance’ as it is not done with malicious intent. It is done because teams are trying to get work done. If the IT team can provide a system that has the same functionality but is easier to use, then they’ll use that instead of an external application. It is that simple.