Sunday, March 22, 2015

Value * Easy = Consumption

Over the past decade I've witnessed a constant stream of IT executives and technology professionals view cloud as a threat to their careers.  When viewed through the eyes of an internal IT shop where the business has been a captive customer I can understand their worry.  Now they're being asked to enable innovation instead of taking orders; bring solutions to the business instead of begrudgingly accept new challenges.  However I can't understand why they don't see the other side of the cloud coin, the very equation which drives cloud adoption: Value * Easy = Consumption.

Public Cloud has been built on two value propositions.  First providing value through availability to resources, in a short time period, without capital investment.  Those three values align with the strategic goals of every CxO no matter how you write them:
  • "Do more with less"
  • "Improve agility, elasticity, efficiency"
  • "Reduce costs"
  • "Shift from maintain to innovate"
  • "Remake the cost curve" (*my personal favorite)
Those are just a sample of quotes from CxO's I've worked with over the past decade.  Moreso, each of the CxO's had a common opinion of IT: too slow and expensive for the value delivered.  This is the environment into which AWS started selling it's cloud capabilities, back before we had the phrase "cloud computing".  It's important to remember AWS grew out of Amazon's own internal needs, it was not the result of market surveys and product development.  Although Fortune 1000 adoption of public cloud has been slow, the concepts of cloud computing rapidly penetrated corporate America in an attempt to bring the AWS value proposition to the enterprise.  Shifting from a hardware centric view to a capability centric view of infrastructure is a major upheaval in approach.  

Given very few companies have been successful in adopting cloud, what's the holdup?

Whereas a CIO can buy "Value" in the form of tools (BMC, VMWare, etc.) or rent it (AWS, Google, Azure, etc.), the truth is they can't buy, rent, lease, borrow or even steal "Easy".  Making something easy isn't easy, and cloud is anything but easy.  Put yourself in the shoes of a business executive such as the Chief Marketing Officer or the Chief Financial Officer.  In your world you have very few hard assets, having shifted most everything to a lease model; from office space and PC's to digital advertising and audit.  You can shift your spend as your business changes throughout the year.  What you need are technology solutions able to meet your need for agility, elasticity and efficiency.  How does your IT team respond?  Building out large scale data centers, buying servers, writing software.  Do any of these approaches appear to be in synch with the CMO and CFO's needs?  No.  In fact strategic planning with IT is so difficult, these leaders are increasingly willing to go outside the company, which is not easy, to get what they need.  They're willing to invest their reputation and the success of their team in taking a risk to convince the CEO, corporate security, office of the general counsel, and fellow business leaders that going around IT is the right strategy.  Then they spend money on consultants and hire talent to move in the new direction.  And yet all of that is considered easier than getting solutions from IT, the place they would prefer be the first, last and only stop.

Without a concerted effort to make cloud use easy the entire equation is upset.  Easy is the governor on the economic engine of cloud.  Having cloud capabilities, being able to deliver the "Value", isn't enough.  When done right, "Easy" is a multiplier of "Value" and drives consumption significantly beyond expectations.  At that point IT executives and technology professionals don't view cloud as a threat to their careers, it morphs into a driver of career opportunity.  Their own value increases dramatically, and their strategic value to the long term success of the business in particular.  In my experience it's much more rewarding to have a seat at the table to discuss how to accomplish some new goal than being berated as the barrier to accomplishing an old goal.

Cloud in the enterprise will never be a success without "Easy".

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