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March 18, 2013

Guest blog: Cloud democratises IT and offers opportunities for IT leaders

Rob Fraser, CTO Cloud Services at Microsoft UK, outlines the opportunity for the IT team by partnering with tech savvy ‘Change Agents’ who are deploying cloud computing to drive positive business change.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Change Agents are a force of innovation emerging in organisations that are driving business change and new ways of operating. Very often, cloud is used by Change Agents as the mechanism to fuel this innovation. But these employees are shifting the nature of IT deployments and also impacting the CIO and IT team. This breed of employees, enthused by technology aren’t looking at IT processes but broader business opportunities and are using tools to let them move fast and scale up and down with minimal risk or cost. A Microsoft Ltd commissioned Forrester study found these Change Agents come from diverse backgrounds and areas of business, using their ideas to add new dimensions to their companies.

The shadow IT department
Until recently it was tougher for employees to act fast when driving a business change programme that was underpinned by an IT project. Roll outs were often hampered by traditional constraints over procurement and deployment schedules. Cloud computing has made it much easier to liberate employees, bridging the gap quickly between idea and execution. According to the findings of the Forrester study report, this emerging trend and the potential creation of shadow IT departments may cause issues for the IT team that needs to enshrine business data and security.

Golden era for CIOs
Change Agents, if engaged properly and early on in their business change projects, offer the CIO and IT team a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Their use of cloud is enabling greater innovation, driving an operational revolution and in doing so providing the impetus for IT leaders to become the giants of their organisations. The cloud represents a new, golden era for CIOs, enabling them to focus on innovation and competitive differentiation for the business.

This is essential as IT has been said by some to be 80 per cent focused on ‘keeping the lights on’ – the day-to-day operations that keep essential services up and running – and only 20 per cent on delivering genuine value-added services. By distinguishing between IT services that are non-differentiated and those that are distinctive, IT can start to find a way forward to providing additional capabilities, adding more value and supporting and even leading the business to create new offerings.

IT an entrepreneurial ‘cloud broker’
The Forrester study suggests that the IT team might evolve to become a business partner for employees throughout the organisation. In doing so, it could unlock employees’ entrepreneurial outlook by becoming a ‘cloud broker’ and providing a menu of solutions and services to the business based on the need from within the organisation. In this way, employees deep within a business will understand what problems they face day in, day out and identify the opportunities to positively shift ways of working. In this way, the IT team becomes engrained into every area of the business, taking up the mantle of an expert business technological advisor and negotiates with IT suppliers to provide the necessary raft of solutions.

This increases the value of the IT team to the organisation as employees get the solutions they need to fuel innovative change while IT maintains control over vital data and security procedures. With this new set-up the IT team becomes more of an expert counsel that can provide advice about potential pitfalls and solutions. By IT acting in tandem with the business the effects of transformational change through IT projects is multiplied.

The cloud is playing an increasingly important role in the future of organisations. It has resulted in a shift in who is deploying IT and how technology is used to solve business problems. Those IT leaders that recognise and grasp the opportunity afforded by this new model stand to benefit enormously, rising through the ranks in some cases to help to drive change through their expertise. IT professionals need to partner closely with Change Agents instead of ignoring and blocking their innovative thinking. The cloud represents a unique opportunity for everybody in IT and the organisation to show their business transformation skills – it’s a chance that shouldn’t be feared or wasted.

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Rob Fraser, CTO Cloud Services at Microsoft UK

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