The value of cloud computing is becoming widely understood, with many reporting that it has delivered beyond their expectations. But there is an opportunity for even greater return from cloud initiatives that is often overlooked. Ignore this opportunity and you risk not only forgoing these benefits, but also the success of your cloud initiatives.
Whether you are a cloud consumer or a cloud provider, changes to key (“non-IT”, “back office”) business processes that support your cloud initiatives can increase your agility, business value, and return on investment. When I was an enterprise cloud provider, we worked very closely with people from Finance, Purchasing, Facilities, and other teams to make key changes to our supporting business processes. We moved from a procurement process designed for 12 to 18 month planning cycles to one that enabled more agile acquisition, and instantaneous response to urgent needs. We updated the budgeting and management process for more agility (with more accountability). And we didn’t stop there. We participated in our internal customers’ budgeting process to ensure we could anticipate their needs, and to help identify areas for efficiency, savings, and additional business value. (A change that alone saved millions of dollars the year we introduced it.)
We also worked to change “supporting” business processes outside our company. We worked with our vendors and suppliers, making them strategic partners by sharing our near-term and mid-term vision and plans. (Yes, some of the more strategic partners were even made aware of our longer-term strategies.) This simple action enabled them to be much more responsive to us so that we could react quickly to unplanned issues or opportunities.
Some of these changes were simple. Others required a bit more change management acumen. But they all made a huge difference in the value we could deliver, in our agility, in the return on our investments, and in customer satisfaction. Furthermore, without at least some of these changes (e.g.: budgeting and procurement) I am convinced we would have witnessed the rapid and spectacular failure of our first cloud initiative. But there were benefits beyond the obvious. Benefits beyond the scope of our cloud initiatives, even.
The changes we made to these processes were available to all aspects of our business. So, by clearing the way for cloud, we actually enabled other, non-cloud, non-IT aspects of our business to be more efficient and more agile. If you make procurement better suited for the cloud era, it can be better for everyone. Likewise with budgeting—you can make it better for everyone. The effects of even small changes can be far reaching. It’s a bit like throwing a pebble into a calm lake, or perhaps like a shockwave – but a positive one.
So, when you reach for the clouds, don’t forget to keep your feet on the ground. The benefits cloud computing brings to your business could far exceed those delivered by the cloud systems themselves.