In my last post I highlighted 5 Ways IT Can Establish Cloud Control.. These suggestions came from recent conversations with IT executives, many of whom are now implementing “Cloud First” strategies in their organizations. So what’s changed? A year ago R “Ray” Wang posted research from a SaaS-adoption survey that highlighted a shift in purchasing power from IT to the business buyer. His post concluded that
“… successful SaaS strategies will require business and IT cooperation,” but there were stark differences in perspectives when each group was asked, ‘Are you using SaaS in your organization for major business processes?;”
I don’t want to suggest that cloud politics no longer exist, but my sense is that we’ve hit, or are about to hit, a tipping point where “hybrid is the new black” and IT organizations are reinventing and reasserting themselves around more comprehensive (and collaborative) cloud computing strategies.
I wanted to test this hypothesis from the line-of-business perspective, so I called a friend who was behind the purchase and implementation of salesforce.com outside of IT three years ago. He works for a division of a Fortune 500 company that needed a sales force automation solution and didn’t want to hurry up and wait for IT. In less than two months his small team was able to get two subsidiaries up and running on a new CRM platform. No software. No hardware. Fast ROI.
I asked him how things have evolved over the past three years.
How did cloud application adoption begin at your company?
Three years ago it was just called software as a service (SaaS). IT wanted us to go with Oracle/Siebel. Our sales team wanted to go with salesforce.com. Marketing even brought in Microsoft CRM Dynamics due to an existing relationship between our companies.
We brought in a systems integrator to help us make a decision and managed to get started with a Salesforce CRM pilot, which required only a small team and no hardware. This fundamentally changed the paradigm for application implementations as we were able to get two subsidiaries up and running in a couple of months. We did invest in cloud data integration and a few other applications, but everything was done outside of traditional IT.
How has this evolved?
Now we have a new CIO and IT is developing a comprehensive cloud strategy. On the business side, instead of being adversaries, as we once were, we’re now working collaboratively to select and implement only proven and therefore mature SaaS applications and platforms. We’re working together (most of the time) to help change our business and go faster. They like the idea of being able to spin up servers and not own them. IT is much more cloud aware and they’re always looking for leverage.
Sounds like there’s been a fundamental change in the IT / business relationship.
Absolutely. In fact, we now receive corporate guidance on how SaaS should be evaluated and implemented. I no longer feel like IT is trying to slow me down. Instead, their goal has been made clear: facilitate business continuity with no risk.
We’ve established guidelines, governance and processes, which are actually very helpful.
When my small team rolled out Salesforce CRM three years ago, I didn’t know anything about SAS 70 Type 2, data controls, audit procedures and how to evaluate cloud security in general. We may not be able to move as fast, but I now realize that at times we moved too fast in the past and it resulted in challenges later on. We now have more structure and order in our processes that we didn’t have before and we’re going back and improving what we already have in place. From a development and release management perspective, we need to ensure that we’re in line with what IT is doing more broadly. We have a much more centralized framework in terms of our overall information management architecture for the company. Our IT team is much more open to input and ideas than they were in the past, and we no longer try to fly under their radar. That just results in more trouble for the business later.
Have the SaaS vendors also changed?
Some have changed. SaaS vendors used to come to the business and attempt to do an end-run around IT. We now spend much more time on security management, whether or not they have other enterprise customers and generally how their solution will fit into our overall enterprise architecture.
I used to be more open to smaller, point vendors. Now they have to prove they won’t be out of business in two months. I want to know about multitenancy. I get IT involved early in the sales process to get buy-in. We spend time up front building the business case, and we determine who will maintain these cloud-based systems over time. We now know that fringe will eventually be core.
Yes, it will be technology that IT will implement; but business needs to drive it, and we need to work together to ensure every cloud initiative is a success.
The interesting thing to note here is that this company is integrating their Oracle eBusiness Suite with salesforce.com. While there are new SaaS applications coming online all of the time, there is still a major component of their IT infrastructure that will remain behind the firewall for the foreseeable future. A master data management (MDM) initiative to deliver a 360-degree customer view across all systems is the next major milestone for their hybrid IT organization.