Does The CIO Have a Role In The Cloud?

Jim Sinur from Gartner poses some very good questions about IT’s role in the Cloud world, in his blog entry The Secret is Out: The Business is Building Processes and Applications. The question is: Will IT continue to play an important role within their organization, when the business now has the option of getting their apps developed on platforms such as Force.com, without IT involvement?

Jim also poses more great questions, such as:

“As the business relies more heavily on these new infrastructures, will they be able to hold up to high scale? Will the business folks really want to take on the tasks to maintain these processes and applications? Who is going to build the integration components to glue these new processes apps together? Will the business folks build and IT be stuck with the results? How does one make sure there is not rampant duplication of processes and applications?”

Another good blog post Force.com – CiO’s dream or nightmare? by Ian Gotts (who heads Nimbus Partners) also outlines some important implications for a CIO, in the new cloud world order.

I do agree with Jim and Ian about the change that’s looming. CIOs need to do some serious thinking and figure out how they’d add value. It seems to me that there’s clearly an anchor role that needs to be played so that all of this comes together within an organization. Take the example of large banks such as Citi or JPMorgan Chase. Retail banking and investment banking are two disparate business functions within each bank and neither function really cares what the other is implementing technologically. But someone would have to figure out how to get these two functions (and others) within a bank to play together so the bank can benefit from a coherent cloud strategy. I also think that that someone would most logically be the CIO (although large Cloud Service Providers may compete for that role in future – outsourcers want that role but they’re unlikely candidates in my view).

Ian provides some very good pointers for the CIO. Another great post when it comes to pointers, is from Thomas Bittman (also, from Gartner) titled If You Build a Private Cloud, Will Anyone Come. “We’ve got to get our IT people to stop thinking about products and technologies and even architectures first, and instead to focus on understanding their service requirements first,” says Thomas. I completely agree. Thomas advocates making ROI decisions based on SLAs and costs for each service, before getting mired in architectures.

I think this is a big paradigm shift for a CIO. But then, aren’t CIOs smart people? If I can figure this out, so can they. What may be harder for a CIO, though, is to change their IT organization to become more service-focused and less obsessed with ownership. If a CIO can pull off that change, he/she will be in the drivers seat. Otherwise they will open opportunities for others.

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