Cloud Strategy: What Every CIO Needs to Know

Perhaps more than any other executive in the C-suite, as CIO you understand transformative technology – from the birth of the microprocessor in 1974 (and the associated birth of the digital world) to the current e-commerce revolution. IT has always been in the forefront of significant change, and cloud is no exception. It bears many of the hallmarks of a new IT mega-trend – lots of hype, plenty of misunderstanding and a time span of 10 years before its full effects are felt.

Unlike previous mega-trends, cloud looks like it will be more than just another strategic advance — it could well be as profoundly game changing as the printing press was to Western Civilization. Cloud is the key that will unlock corporate change at a level that greatly exceeds all earlier strategies, including outsourcing (1980s), off-shoring (1990s) and web-based market channels (2000s). Cloud presents a unique opportunity to virtualize almost every aspect of corporate activity – starting with IT. That presents you with the rare opportunity to reinvent your role as CIO and have a dramatic impact on your organization’s value-creating abilities. 

Using cloud, you now have the potential to expand your responsibilities into broad shared services and, ultimately, into architecting the entire business structure.  To make that happen, you must be proactive in adopting cloud, although timing remains the biggest challenge. To navigate these uncertainties, you will need to adopt a sense-and-respond approach by establishing an incubator model within your IT organization that senses demand and links to emerging capabilities on the supply side.

A number of forces are now converging to accelerate the adoption of external services based in the cloud. For example, there’s the web and the growing adoption of open standards and utility platforms for more practical sharing of resources and facilities. 

Against this backdrop, as CIO you can take one of two approaches in re-inventing your IT environment. You can manage the whole of shared services (including IT, finance, procurement and HR). Or, you can focus on transforming the business as a whole as a ‘business architect’ or ‘chief optimization officer’ — helping the CEO fashion streamlined organizations that exploit the tools of digital business and consider their impact on strategy, structure and process. It’s a huge opportunity for the CIO who can grasp it.

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