A CIO guide to untapping the potential of the cloud

By Nathan Steiner, Head of Systems Engineering ANZ at Veeam Software

Credit: ID 118471509 © Binu Omanakkuttan | Dreamstime.com

CIOs will be familiar with the dilemma. There are so many cloud options out there now – how do you know which is best for your business? How can you ensure you are delivering services that are both customer-centric and business-aligned?

It is tempting to resort to the cloud (meaning in this context the native public cloud) as the ‘panacea’ solution for all IT challenges and use cases. But this is not necessarily the case. While the cloud is undeniably a key component of solving a CIO’s key business challenges, it is not one-size-fits-all and diligent CIOs should consider an array of factors before making an assessment on what cloud solution or mix of solutions, may be right for their business.

There are seven CIO imperatives to cloud. I call them the ‘CIO 7’, and they represent the most important things that CIOs need to consider as part of their Cloud Solution assessment. In no particular order, these are:

1) Provisioning (including self-service)
It is always important to make sure you align any cloud solution to your IT models and clearly identify what falls under each solution’s remit. Provisioning in the cloud assessment context includes: identity, network, storage, application and compute. How these are managed and provisioned is key, as well as considering which portals allow for centralised and/or role-based access.

2) Time to Availability
When assessing the provisioning process of the key cloud components highlighted above, it is also essential to assess the time to availability. This means the time to availability both in the event of standing up a new service, as well as when it’s required to restore and/or recover from a service continuity outage. A digital platform will typically be an integrated ecosystem of identity, network, storage, application and compute across a hybrid cloud platform and therefore understanding the time to availability imperative from both scenarios is vital.

3) Operational Efficiency 
An organisation’s strategies and processes, in both their current and desired future states, need to be evaluated against cloud solution options in order to understand which ones allow for the delivery of operational efficiencies. This will be a major driver for CIOs in understanding whether or not a particular cloud solution even makes sense. Efficiency at scale and the ability for IT operations to run more efficiently is gold-dust for a CIO! 

4) Bottom line
Whether it’s the ability to deliver incremental revenue and services opportunities into new markets or maintain competitive advantage in existing markets, an assessment of cloud solutions and an understanding of costs will ultimately drive the business case of one cloud solution over the other. 

Different workloads, services and requirements will invariably drive a Hybrid Cloud approach, although what this mix looks like will also vary. Typically, predictable services are better delivered within private or managed cloud offerings. Services that are more seasonal, elastic and are monetised as ‘on demand’ services will typically benefit from Public Cloud. Make sure the cost implications of all options are well understood.

5) Operating Outcomes
As a CIO, a focus on the target state of operating outcomes is also key. Who manages what? Internal, external or contracting oversight of services as they spread across a cloud solution or suite of cloud platforms requires a laser-guided focus. At the very least, an assessment on the operating outcomes needing to be achieved. Determining the ‘best of breed’ against the management of overall operating outcomes will always need to be taken into account.

6) Technical Outcomes
As with operating outcomes, a CIO must also ensure that they consider the various merits of each cloud solution against their technical outcomes. What you get technically from on-prem, for example, will be different to a hybrid cloud solution and so on. It is often helpful for a CIO to take a step back and think about what technical outcomes they are trying to deliver for the business, and consider their cloud options from there. Various underpinning components of each stack will yield you vastly different results.

7) Risk management
 Along with the bottom line, a CIO will find that risk management is the imperative that gets the most attention from other C-suite colleagues. Risk management encompasses both the actual data security element of your cloud solution, as well as any and all considerations of regulatory compliance and governance. The financial and reputational risk of poor data security is well-established, but both are subject to breaches.

With the arrival of GDPR in Europe and the associated compliance globally, managing governance risks has become a frequent boardroom topic. Fundamentally, no solutions will be risk free and fit the other six imperatives outlined above, so every decision will become about how much risk the business can tolerate, for its core IP or externally accessible data. 

For risk management, CIOs would do well to consider a risk matrix – evaluate the risk, likelihood, impact and consequence of any event – before making any decisions on their cloud solution. 

Read more: If you don’t change security policies after a data breach, when will you do it?

Remember to take a holistic approach to your cloud solution decisions, and carefully consider each of the seven CIO imperatives. That is how you untap the potential of the cloud to deliver value and a competitive advantage for your business.

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