Don’t let the big (or small) words win – The New CIO Series

In the world of  technology we tend to use either really big words, really small words and/or acronyms.

What do you think of when you think of  ‘the cloud’ what do you think of?  Do you think about Amazon‘s EC2 or S3 or do you think about  “Parallel and Distributed Processing”?  Both could be right but neither are instructive to the ‘business’ user.  For that matter, is “the cloud” instructive to the business? Probably not.

The New CIO & Language

There’s a lot of talk in the business world about finding IT leaders who can speak to the business. I agree wholeheartedly…but I also think the business needs to learn to speak to the IT world too….but I’ve covered that in detail in a post titled Information Technology Leadership and Alignment. Moving on.

To help align business and IT, The New CIO needs to first look at the language of IT.  Get rid of the big words….and perhaps the small words if they aren’t clear enough.  Look at your IT group’s language to make sure acronyms and tech-jargon are purged from the external facing documentation and communication.  Take a long look at what you communicate to the organization and how you communicate to make sure you aren’t letting the tech-speak take over.

Want to really take it up a notch and make sure you’re communicating what the organization needs to hear? Bring in a marketer and a   communications person to build an IT marketing and communication plan for your team.  Your organization has marketing plans for how you’ll attack the market, why can’t you have one for how you’ll communicate to the rest of the organization?

Be careful though…you don’t want to get too far into business language or you’ll end up using the same marketing/business jargon that every other group within your organization uses.  Keep it simple and real and you’ll be fine.

Next time the CEO asks you “what’s this cloud computing thing I keep hearing about?”, how will you respond?  Big words or the right words?

The New CIO is a weekly article about the challenges facing today’s CIO as well as what can be done to prepare for future challenges. Join me next week for another article in the series.

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Risks and issues in Cloud Computing

Bernard Golden has a two-part series on the IT Drilldown Virtualization section of CIO.com that is informative and interesting.

The two-part series, titled The Case Against Cloud Computing (Part 1, Part 2), describes conversations that Golden has had with industry veterans. During these conversations, Golden picks up five main reervations that these industry veterans have against Cloud Computing.  Golden writes:

There are five key impediments to enterprise adoption of cloud computing, according to my conversations. I will discuss each in a separate posting for reasons of length. The five key impediments are:

  • Current enterprise apps can’t be migrated conveniently
  • Risk: Legal, regulatory, and business
  • Difficulty of managing cloud applications
  • Lack of SLA
  • Lack of cost advantage for cloud computing

Some interesting thoughts there…and I think they are all valid concerns.

Think about the “lack of SLA” concern….I’ve not run across a single cloud computing app that offers an SLA  guaranteeing service, reliability, data safety or security.

Jump over and read Golden’s commentary and thoughts…some interesting stuff there.

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Cloud Computing and the Enterprise

I ran across an absolutely amazing blog post from Mark Masterson titled ‘The Enterprise Cloud‘ that really shed a lot of light on Cloud Computing in the Enterprise. Cloud Computing seems to be one of those nebulous entities with many different definitions by many different people.  Take the following definitions as examples.

Frank Gillett @ Forrester – “Most of us confuse two fundamentally different types of compute clouds as one. Server clouds support the needs of traditional business apps while scale-out clouds are designed for massive, many-machine workloads such as Web sites or grid compute applications.” Geva Perry @ GigaOm – “Although it is difficult to come up with a precise and comprehensive definition of cloud computing, at the heart of it is the idea that applications run somewhere on the “cloud” (whether an internal corporate network or the public Internet) – we don’t know or care where.” InfoWorld – Cloud computing is “a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT’s existing capabilities”.

After all of that, it’s safe to assume that cloud computing can be thought of as another ‘system’ that can be used to add capabilities to your IT infrastructure without the expensive data center and operations staff. So what is Enterprise Cloud Computing?  Mark Mastersondescribes it as:

a type of cloud computing that is suited to the specific requirements of existing companies, and allows them to leverage resources in the Cloud to provide economical ways of adding capacity to their existing environments.

Nice description..simple and straightforward with no techno-speak…especially the ‘economical ways of adding capacity to their existing environments’.  I’d say every CIO is looking for economical ways to add to their IT Infrastructure and capabilities. Is Cloud computing the right way to go for every organization?  Probably not…but it does give you an opportunity to do a lot more with a lot less….which is what people are looking for today. Mark’s blog post is long and detailed….and a great read.  Jump over now and enjoy. For a real-world example of Cloud Computing within an enterprise, jump over to CIO.com and read the article about Bechtel’s move to the cloud. The article starts with an interesting question:

If I were starting from scratch, what kind of IT systems would I build to support my business today?

Great question…and one that would probably receive the answer of ‘not what I have today’ in many organizations today. Geir Ramleth, Bechtel’s CIO, asked this question at Bechtel a few years ago and found that the answer was “no”….so he set about to change how IT was delivered to the organization.  His answer: Cloud Computing. But…Ramleth and his team didn’t go to outside vendors for all their cloud computing needs…they built data centers and standardized on hardware and software and began to deliver IT solutions across the enterprise using internal cloud computing resources. In effect, Bechtel built a SaaS model and began offering these service to their internal and external clients.  According to Ramleth (as reported in the article), the goal of the new SaaS platform is to:

create a Google-like experience for enterprise application users. Log in to the portal, pick a task and get it done in a few simple steps rather than logging in to an assortment of applications.

Interesting concept.  I’d be interested in how the end-users at Bechtel are feeling about these new SaaS applications. Interesting stuff…isn’t it?  There are few companies  today as advanced as Bechtel in their adoption of Cloud Computing in the enterprise, but I think we’ll see more ‘noise’ in the coming year(s) as organizations try to ‘do more with less’. Know of any other real-world examples of cloud computing in the enterprise?  Share them with me in the comments.

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