Janel Ryan| Forbes

In October 2012, we had the chance to attend SunGard’s IGNITE Conference for CIOs in San Francisco, and in May 2013, we were lucky enough to go again.

The topic of both sessions was enterprise cloud computing, but there was one striking difference: between October and May, CIOs (and IT in general) seem to have lost their seat at the table when it comes to making decisions about cloud computing in the enterprise.

In October 2012, the conversation in the room was about how IT can maintain the driver’s seat of infrastructure management, and steer corporate policy on cloud adoption and procurement of cloud services. CIOs discussed their challenges with departments within their organization going outside of IT and buying cloud services. One CIO pounded the table and said, “We have got to make people understand that they can’t just agree to public cloud services willy-nilly when there are a whole host of other considerations to think about, from legal to regulatory to technical.”

CIOs and Cloud Computing: How Fast Things Can Change

Fast forward 6 months, and in just half a year, IT has not only lost their seat behind the steering wheel, but it appears they’ve been kicked off the bus altogether. CIOs in the room lamented that not only were they not being consulted about adopting cloud services, they were no longer being told about these adoptions at all. Many lines of business within their organization had just forged ahead and invested in “shadow IT” organizations to meet their business goals.

The reality is, IT has simply lost the ability to keep up with the speed of business. IT is being perceived as the “Department of NO” or the “Department of SLOW.”

CIOs and Cloud Computing: How to Get Back on the Bus

“Wait,” a CIO might say, “Is that fair? After all, it is IT’s job to support business processes and make them scalable and repeatable.” That’s true, but IT is struggling to keep up with the demands of the business. So here’s our suggestion for how CIOs (and the rest of IT) can jump back on the bus, and perhaps into the driver’s seat again: change your mindset and think of yourselves more as an ADVISORY arm than an IMPLEMENTATION arm.

Get out there and research the cloud-based services and applications available today that could impact your business and its outcomes. Proactively figure out which ones best meet your business requirements, test, and then qualify them for use. Become experts in the marketplace so you can move the lines of business to make smarter decisions, and have the information ready at your fingertips to back up those decisions. Users are always going to go out and look at new applications. A tech-savvy workforce practically guarantees that this will be a part of everyday work. What IT can do is guide those users towards pre-tested and pre-qualified applications based upon business needs. What IT needs to do is evolve into a consulting house.

CIOs and Cloud Computing: A Long Road Ahead

This isn’t going to be easy. In order to get out there and find and test and present the best applications that meet business requirements, you’re going to have to understand the business requirements first. CIOs are going to have to put their team in front of business executives and prepare them to have business conversations. They’re going to have to engage with developers, managers, and executives. It might even be prudent to shadow business departments, go on a few sales calls, or listen in on some application development calls. CIOs have to be an agent of change, or face continuous conflict from the different lines of business.


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