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HP Software's community for IT leaders // September 2013
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What the business is saying when it says ‘cloud’

When they’re asking for a solution, make sure you’re asking for the problem.
 
You’ve gotten the meeting request: some decision makers on the business side want to explore the idea of moving to the cloud. When IT and the LOBs get together, there is always room for misunderstanding. After all, they rarely speak the same language. But there’s also a lot of room for fruitful partnership—if you can guide the conversation. Ahead of HP’s Sept. 2013 virtual conference, Power to Change, we’ve distilled a preview of the Cloud & Automation track to tackle this challenge.

Step 1: Ask what “cloud” means to the business

When the business starts talking in technical terms, costly mistakes can happen. It’s not the business side’s job to understand the ins and outs of IT, and you have to realize that business leaders might request a specific technical solution without understanding what they’re asking for. It’s your job to uncover the real request.
 
It’s not that you’re coming in to school everyone on what the cloud is and how it works. You’re there to investigate and get to their core need, not their suggested solution. Ask questions and listen to responses. You might find that the business wants to talk about cloud only because they read that a competitor is using the cloud—even if a cloud solution won’t fit your company’s needs or advance the company’s strategy. Maybe what they really need is simply to automate certain tasks or processes.
 
Often, when business leaders talk about “cloud,” they really mean “fast.” If that’s the case, talk about speed. What, specifically, do they need to happen faster, or more flexibly? Why isn’t it fast enough now? How fast does it need to be? Fast for a dev-test environment is different from fast for a revenue-generating app, so don’t assume everyone at the table is using the same definition of speed.

Step 2: Self-analyze

Once you know what the business wants, take inventory of what you already have. Can you provide it with existing tools? Do you need new tools? Do you, after all, need to move certain processes to the cloud?
 
Know that internal IT might not be the best solution to this particular business need. The cloud era requires IT organizations to change the way they perceive their role in the business—from sole provider of all things IT to service integrator. There may be a third-party option that can address the business problem faster and more efficiently than you can, and your ability and willingness to manage that service in the enterprise will help secure IT’s reputation as a real strategic partner.

Step 3: Prioritize

Many times, a cloud conversation with the business can lead to a laundry list of the outcomes the business wants to achieve—and can lead IT to its own list of solutions. Be prepared to explain that you can’t do everything immediately. Prioritization should be a collaborative process in which the business determines its most important outcomes and IT explains just how feasible and necessary these solutions are.
 
When prioritizing which tasks and processes to move to the cloud, consider the following criteria:

  • Frequency and time to execute. If a short process comes up only once a month, it might not be worth automating. But if that process takes a week every time it’s requested, automation might be the answer.
  • Business criticality. Does the process or app in question generate revenue? Does it cut expenses?
  • Value. Process A might be most important but will also take the longest to implement. So if you can automate processes B and C tomorrow, you might want to deliver those first and then focus on A.
  • Number of teams/handoffs involved. If you have a process that crosses multiple groups with a lot of potential for errors and miscommunication, that’s a sweet spot for cloud and automation.

Don’t assume

The cloud discussion won’t be a single event: you can expect to have multiple conversations with the business as you work to achieve mutual understanding around problems, solutions, and goals. But every time you share the table, the best way to approach the interaction is with an open mind. As your role evolves into that of a service broker, there’s no better way to demonstrate just how valuable IT is—and will always be—to the success of the enterprise.
 
Keep up with the latest trends and strategies around cloud--and other key technologies, from mobility to analytics to security--with the Discover Performance newsletter.  Subscribe here.


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