With modern advancements in technology, the way enterprises operate has undergone many significant changes. Organisations are constantly looking towards the ‘next best thing' and whether this is software, hardware or storage solutions, every organisation's separate business units are vying to take advantage of the new generation of cloud services. This has led to the interest in cloud computing no longer being in the sole charge of the IT team.
As a consequence, business unit leaders tend to have their own IT solution in mind when it comes to what they think is best for their company, and few wait for the CIO to deliver a solution against a set of business-critical requirements. This is leading to both CIOs and IT departments not only losing the control but also having to deal with the pitfalls that come from having both systems and data outside of a company's infrastructure. Finding a solution that meets the needs of business stakeholders is one of the greatest challenges facing enterprises today.
The convergence of cloud computing and business-critical applications is perhaps the most transformative technology trend affecting the modern workplace. Employees demand instant access to tools at any time and from any location, and they can do this by using cloud-based solutions. These cloud systems not only offer unlimited storage scalability and data-processing capabilities, but they can also help business-critical applications to run more efficiently. With businesses becoming increasingly open to growth opportunities, being able to respond to dynamic market conditions and competition, serve new geographies and rapidly develop new products and services means cloud solutions are becoming more and more attractive.
Despite the benefits that cloud computing offers a business, IT departments are understandably nervous of allowing business units access to the wide range of self-service solutions they need. With budget limitations and corporate policies, the IT department ends up acting as a gatekeeper and restricting the services to which employees can access.
These limitations are impelling employees to procure their own solutions in order to meet their own specific business requirements. According to Centrify, more than two-thirds of organisations admit that unauthorised cloud applications are being implemented without the knowledge of or the involvement of IT. This ‘shadow IT' could pose a significant threat to information security and could potentially impact its revenue.
According to Gartner, by 2020, 35 percent of an organisation's technology budget will be spent outside of the IT department. This will mean that IT departments will be at a disadvantage when trying to tackle ‘shadow IT' which will continue to grow, unless business units are provided with the flexible tools they seek from IT teams.
With each business unit demanding different technological requirements, software development teams could greatly benefit from the agility of creating instances in a short space of time, and the efficiency of not having to manage and maintain infrastructure and paying only for the infrastructure they need. Web content teams can also greatly benefit from the cloud. Not only does the cloud open up resource from multiple internet-connected devices with lower barriers for entry, but also gives teams access to hosted applications and data and cloud-based development services, allowing content teams to create web applications that have remote access to data and services like never before.
The major challenge being faced by IT departments is that of regaining control and enabling employees to work flexibly whilst also making sure that company data is secure and CIOs can deliver the compliance and reporting requirements needed. In order to tackle this, CIOs and IT departments need to bridge the gaps between the need for IT to control and the need for business units' need for flexibility. By offering flexible and dynamic self-service solutions, IT becomes an enabler of business change rather than a barrier to it and by choosing a hybrid cloud platform that offers both on premise and cloud solutions, businesses will avoid the difficulties that occur from the use of a variety of different cloud offerings within a single organisation.
The demands placed by business units are becoming stronger, more innovative and more competitive. CIOs need to understand that these demands require a service-based approach. In understanding and implementing this, CIOs can position themselves as a business enabler, supporting greater efficiency and innovation to fuel growth and increased revenue, while also future-proofing an organisation's technology infrastructure to maintain a competitive edge.
It is this future-proofing that CIOs must immediately turn their attentions to. By choosing an appropriate hybrid cloud infrastructure that meets their businesses requirements, CIOs can create a unified vision before their own business – and competing businesses – beat them to it. A big part of this is the embracement of shadow IT within the enterprise, rather than trying to shut it down.
As CIOs continue to be pulled in different directions by employees, cloud providers, customers and stakeholders, it is apparent that a single cloud strategy is no longer sufficient in meeting the variety of needs. Hybrid cloud – combining public cloud infrastructure and external cloud services with private cloud deployments and on-premise IT systems – not only provides flexibility, structure and security but also enables CIOs to gain control over the IT environment, assuring data governance and enabling certain parts of a business to grow with the right technology to support them.
Now is the time for CIOs to shake off their gatekeeper reputation and step confidently into the role of business enabler, with hybrid cloud behind them, facilitating this evolution.
Contributed by Ian Finlay, chief operating officer at Abiquo