Cloud First World Presents IT with Golden Opportunity

Cloud First World Presents IT with Golden Opportunity

By Farrell Hough, GM and VP, Product Operations at ServiceNow  |  November 08, 2016

As cloud computing has gained year-over-year traction in the enterprise world, many have wondered when large organizations would reach a tipping point. In other words, when would the majority of enterprises declare themselves as cloud-first entities, build their strategies around cloud-first pillars, and be in some stage of transitioning to cloud-first implementation?  As it turns out, that point does not exist in the distant, or even the not-so-distant, future. That time is now. And for IT, that changes everything.

Enterprises Transition to Cloud-First Footing

Cloud computing is not earth-shattering news. It’s been around for years. What is earth-shattering, however, is the fact that for the first time ever, more than half (52 percent) of enterprises indicated that they would choose cloud as the platform of choice for new business applications.

According to the report “2016 Cloud Computing Tipping Point,” commissioned by ServiceNow (News - Alert), a growing trend has reached critical mass: organizations prefer choosing a cloud-first solution rather than an on-premises solution when creating, deploying, and managing applications. From this research, several indicators show that the cloud-first shift is poised to be a major game-changer for IT.

The survey unveiled three major insights.

Insight No. 1: Reality Finally Measures Up to Hype for Cloud Computing

Tech gurus have long predicted that enterprises would make a tectonic shift from traditional data center computing to cloud computing. Until now, however, it appeared that enterprises were merely dipping their toe into the cloud.

Fully 52 percent of respondents report being cloud-first, with new apps and services hosted in the cloud as opposed to on infrastructure that an enterprise owns and manages. This 52 percent grows to 77 percent within two years, showing just how quickly this shift is happening.

Insight No. 2: DevOps Led the Charge to Cloud-First World

The rise of DevOps synergistically coincided with the organic, inter-enterprise momentum to cloud-first footing.

Historically speaking, DevOps came out of an agile development community. Its basic premise has been to burst through the walls in the enterprise silos so that IT, developers, and key business stakeholders can get together and be more agile.

For the sake of this survey, researchers defined DevOps as a new group within an enterprise that is part software development, part IT operations, and part QA. DevOps is gaining traction as a way to streamline application development by breaking down the walls that often exist between these three groups. In some companies, DevOps is a separate group; in other companies, DevOps is more of a culture, philosophy, or practice.

Nearly every survey respondent (94 percent) reported that they are involved in some way with the DevOps movement. A large majority (76 percent) said that the rise of DevOps is a major factor driving the move to cloud-first.

Insight No. 3: A Cloud-First World Demands New IT Skill Set

Is the cloud-first shift a dark harbinger for IT? At first glance, it might appear so. Nearly nine in 10 companies that have completed making the shift to a cloud-first model said their current IT staff lacked the required skillsets to help them make this shift. In addition, 88 percent feel cloud could be a replacement for a formal IT department at least some of the time.

Let me be clear: it’s not time to ring the death knell for IT. While IT is in danger of becoming obsolete or marginalized, the survey also showed a silver lining. First, 72 percent said the cloud shift actually raised the relevancy of IT to the business. Furthermore, nearly three of five respondents (57 percent) said IT will be completely essential in the future.

So, what can IT organizations do to navigate the new cloud-first world and avoid the dangers facing IT departments in every enterprise: low visibility, less control, and being able to predict computing costs? First they need to address a few challenges. Based on these findings, here are my key takeaways for IT:

  • View the Big Picture.  According to survey respondents, their top priorities are achieving 360-degree visibility (64 percent) and predicting the cost of computing (63 percent). With the proliferation of cloud-based services and applications, it is more important than ever that IT have full visibility of their portfolio to effectively utilize their resources, execute on projects, ensure compliance and manage business relationships. 
  • IT will need to play nice with DevOps. With DevOps playing a prominent role in IT’s world, IT teams will see more business app projects coming from the “bottom up” and will need to enable line-of-business with greater tools to code.  IT will need to delegate development to a growing legion of employees with DevOps skills.
  • Have an Effective Cloud Management Strategy. With cloud growth comes cloud sprawl. It will be absolutely critical to implement more agile cloud management policies and best practices. Order must prevail over chaos. Companies will have to deal with more vendors, and those vendors will come and go more quickly than companies may be accustomed to. This means SIAM (service integration and management) and vendor management will be more important, and will require moving from a “large grain” to a “fine grain” approach of managing IT services. A contract with one vendor may not be appropriate with others. IT can—and should be—an integral player here.

Recommendations for IT Leaders

Challenge breeds opportunity. Those who evolve to new environments will find themselves not merely surviving, but thriving. First, IT leaders need to do some serious introspection and ask hard questions, such as what does “service” means to the enterprise. Is this definition different from what your team does now? Does the enterprise see you differently than you see yourselves? How? As you contemplate this, be sure that you structure yourselves to build end-to-end IT services that provide value at every level. 

I highly suggest you read the full ServiceNow survey report for the full list of other recommendations that IT leaders can apply today.

Time for IT to STEP UP

For years, IT has wanted to work on strategic initiatives but complained they were pinned down just “keeping the lights on.” In a cloud-first world that changes radically, it is by no means an easy transition. Not only does IT have time to be a strategic partner, but that is what the enterprise NEEDS them to be. This is the year IT finally gets the role they’ve always wanted.

Edited by Alicia Young