Blogger: Lyn Robison
Does anyone believe that cloud computing is going to deliver better business information to businesspeople?
When I ask that question, the answers I usually get are “no” or “kinda”. The people who answer “no” tell me that cloud computing deals with the cost side of the IT ledger: cloud is designed to reduce IT costs. The people who answer “kinda” tell me that cloud will make IT more agile, and if IT is more agile and responsive, businesspeople could conceivably get better information, because the feedback loop between businesspeople and IT will be shorter. The “no” answer I can believe, but I have my doubts about the “kinda” answer.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for reducing the cost side of the IT ledger, and I am definitely in favor of IT becoming more agile. Cloud promises to do both of these things, so be sure to put me down in favor of cloud computing.
But when I hear people talk about driving down IT costs or making IT more agile, I can’t help but wonder when we as IT professionals might start working on the value side of the IT ledger. My reaction to all of this cheap-and-agile talk is, “Oh great, more bad data, cheaper and faster. The business is going to love that.”
From what I can see, IT delivers value by delivering useful information to the business. When considering the value side of the IT ledger, good data coming from IT systems is good and bad data coming from IT systems is bad. And in this case, “good” and “bad” both carry with them real consequences.
If you doubt the dire consequences of IT systems that produce bad data, check out my friend and colleague Joe Bugajski’s life-threatening experience with bad data here and here. Also take a look at bad data’s smoking gun that triggered the financial meltdown from which we are all currently suffering.
The reaction of IT people to these particular examples of bad data is often, “Those are business problems and are outside the scope of IT.” To me, that statement is wrong on so many levels that I have trouble figuring out how to respond to it. If you sincerely believe that IT should not try to be part of the solution to problems like these, I have no idea what to say to you. If, OTOH, you think that maybe IT should try to be part of the solution to the problem of IT systems that produce bad data, then I have some exciting ideas to share with you. (You can contact me directly, or you can visit the DMS home page.)
From what I can see, when we as IT people look at cloud computing, we should be eager to use it to reduce costs and become more agile. With cloud, IT’s technical infrastructure can perhaps fade into the background. But then what? When cloud finally makes technology a commodity, where does an IT department go next to improve itself in the eyes of the enterprise it serves? It seems like IT departments will have to use cloud another way: IT people will have to use cloud to deliver better information to businesspeople. IOW, IT people will have to use cloud to start thinking more about “I” and less about “T”.
“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future”(Yogi Berra), but when cloud computing becomes pervasive, enterprise IT people might have to become either “I” people or “T” people. In the future, “T” people might all go to work for cloud providers, and “I” people might all go to work for the business, leaving no one in the traditional enterprise IT department. Or, perhaps enterprise IT departments will transition from their current groups for “Plan”, “Build”, and “Run” into just two groups: “I” and “T”. The “I” people will help businesspeople get valuable business data into and out of the cloud, and the “T” people will manage the internal and external systems behind the cloud.
It seems clear to me that concentrating solely on the cost side of the IT ledger would be very shortsighted for an IT industry that is populated with lots of visionary people. For the good of our industry, somewhere, somehow, sometime, someone in the IT industry is going to have to devote some serious attention to the value side of the IT ledger.
So, when you consider cloud computing, be sure to look at cloud from both sides: technology and information, IT costs and IT value. Enterprise IT groups will need “I” people and “T” people to work on both sides of the cloud if we are going to satisfy the business with cloud computing.