Strong CIO and high-profile IT pros are key to cloud migration

10 Apr 2013

Graham Quinn, chief technology officer, Auxilion

Successful cloud projects need a strong CIO and an IT team prepared to take a more public role in their organisations by helping end users get the most out of technology.

Much has been said about how cloud can help transform a business but far less has been said about the implications for IT professionals. The perception, real or otherwise, is that moving to as-a-service IT delivery threatens their jobs because it removes the need for companies to manage their systems with hands-on staff.

Too often, IT professionals are seen as standing in the way of moving to a different IT delivery model. “It can be like turkeys voting for Christmas,” said Graham Quinn, chief technology officer with Auxilion.

Rather than taking a back seat and blocking adoption of the cloud, IT teams that take a more proactive approach will be positively received by the rest of the business.

“When the CIO talks to the senior management and delivers the cost savings, they’ll make the decision anyway. The IS team needs to be part of those discussions, be public and be part of the vision,” said Quinn.

“What you need, and what I’ve seen work, is a strong CIO who can communicate the business values to the senior management team. The second level is, the IS team needs to be part of the role IT plays in the business.”

That means becoming more involved in delivering support to users and engage in more user adoption training to ensure all staff are getting the most out of their organisation’s IT systems. “They need to be advertising what value IT can deliver for them,” Quinn said.

“The role of the IS department has changed in the cloud model. Rather than ‘build and control’ it’s an ‘acquire and deploy’ mindset,” said Quinn.

Auxilion’s work

Auxilion is a subsidiary of the technology consultants IT Alliance Group, formed last year to address business opportunities in migrating businesses to the cloud. One of its most prominent clients is the wind and solar energy player Mainstream Renewable Power, which has been working on a major cloud project over the past 18 months.

The company has close to 200 employees working across five continents and Auxilion handles all IT support virtually via the cloud, replacing an on-premise local support model.

“At Mainstream, the IS team were so preoccupied with keeping the lights on that they’d lost sight of what the business did,” said Quinn.

Spurred on by the vision of Mainstream’s CIO John Shaw to deliver IT “better, faster and cheaper,” Quinn said the key to the project was in establishing upfront the total cost of running the IT systems the old way. “That needs the client to be very honest in terms of declaring their upfront spend,” he said.

Some cloud cheerleaders claim the technology can deliver fast return on investment but Quinn warned that it can take longer than expected depending on the size of the organisation and the maturity of its IT systems.

“What we’ve experienced with Mainstream since is that the IS guys are being more strategic, thinking more about the future rather than worrying about the here and now. They’re wondering about how social networking can be brought into the enterprise – and that’s where they should be,” said Quinn, who will be speaking at the National Conference on Cloud Computing and Commerce. The event takes place next Tuesday at Dublin City University and more details can be found online

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic