Turkeys don’t vote for Thanksgiving

May 5, 2010 Appirio

“Turkeys don’t vote for Thanksgiving”: Why it’s so important for enterprise IT to emerge a winner in the transition to cloud computing

By Ryan Nichols

Gartner’s Ben Pring gave a room full of vendors and IT managers a splash of cold water this morning at a great local analyst briefing, explaining that many of the enterprise IT buyers he talks to see the move to cloud computing as a threat to their jobs. He estimates the real purpose behind 7 of 10 briefings that he does with enterprise IT is to help “build a script” to derail cloud initiatives.

Why? Here’s Ben’s explanation:

“Turkeys don’t vote for Thanksgiving. Many in IT see the public cloud as next generation outsourcing, and ask ‘What the hell am I going to do?’ If you’re someone with one eye on your 401K, you know that your route to that checkout depends on your headcount, and your budget. There’s a lot of IT managers who want the quiet life. They are scared of Chatter, of Twitter, of Facebook. They have no time to look at the new, when they’re hanging on for dear life trying to manage the old.”

Keep in mind, Gartner is very bullish on cloud computing, and they spend a lot of time educating buyers and managers on how to make the shift to the cloud. With cloud computing at the peak of the Gartner hype cycle, it’s no surprise there are lots of questions. Cloud and SaaS-related terms are the top things IT execs search for on Gartner.com, and Gartner analysts take hundreds of briefings every year on these topics.

Is all of this activity from cloud skeptics?

Most of the IT professionals we work with (and we’re sure many that Ben and Gartner counsel) have a different view on cloud computing: They view the shift to the cloud as an opportunity to get out of the business of tedious, commoditized tasks. They don’t want to spend 80% of their time and energy just “keeping the lights on.” They view the shift to the cloud as chance to finally enable business innovation, instead of inhibit it… to start saying “yes” to their business partners instead of “no.”

But accelerating enterprise adoption of the cloud will require convincing the rest of enterprise IT that cloud computing is more of an opportunity than a threat.

This shouldn’t be a tough case to make. Consider Ben’s description of how cloud computing is changing the world of supporting custom business processes– traditionally the bane of IT’s existence.

Customization of a packaged, client/server application is extremely complex, and accompanied by an expensive top-down business process re-engineering effort. Typically, you spend 10x more on the customization than you spent on the underlying software, and at the end, end up with a brittle solution that’s impossible to upgrade. It’s so bad that today’s best practice is to run completely vanilla packaged apps.

Contrast that with customization of a cloud-based application: Apps built on cloud platforms can be “customized” through simple configuration, oftentimes by a business analyst in partnership with IT– no busload of Big 5 consultants required. Customizations can be applied iteratively, without a “big bang” release. And customizations don’t break your ability to upgrade.

Of course, there’s a role for enterprise IT in both types of customizations. But customizing business processes in the cloud provides a couple of very real advantages for IT professionals: you’ll sleep better, for one thing, and actually enjoy your job. You’ll also be able to add more value to the enterprise, which is the best type of job security there is.

Now that more and more of the IT industry is committed to moving to the cloud, it’s important that vendors do a better job of making the case to skeptical IT professionals. That will require building a bridge between the world of on-premise software and the world of the cloud, and developing a business-case driven roadmap to take advantage of these new capabilities.

The message: You don’t have to be a turkey. The journey to the cloud makes all of us into pilgrims.

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