3 secrets to creating a business case for cloud computing

If you hope to convince management about the cloud -- with successful results -- follow these key steps

We've all seen the PowerPoint presentations that show the business advantages of cloud computing: the ability to avoid hardware and software purchases (opex vs. capex), speed to deployment, elasticity, and so on. However, unless you're prepared to provide real numbers that define real value, that's so much fluff to those in the executive suite.

As I develop these business cases for enterprises, I've found some commonality or emerging patterns to consider. Here are my top three secrets to developing your cloud computing business case and getting it accepted.

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First, define the cost of what's not working. Any CIO will tell you that everything is going well in his or her IT shop. That's almost never the case, and the underlying inefficiency has a real cost -- one you need to define up front. In larger organizations, you'll find it's millions of dollars a year in lost productivity to the business.

Second, move beyond the buzzwords to the heart of the business problems. As cloud geeks, we tend to move in packs, speak the same language, and share a worldview. However, your enterprise is a unique problem domain, so you first need to define the individual problems that the cloud can address before you can sell the general advantages of cloud computing.

Third, and most important, understand that the business case needs to be specific and tied to an overall plan. The path to success is to define what's wrong, determine how to fix it, and demonstrate why cloud computing is the right path to fix it. If you can't outline that strategy, you don't have a business case. To do so, you need very specific information that describes the current state. Then, you need very specific information that delineates a path to the fix. Finally, you need very specific information that points out the cost advantages of reaching the target state. All of this feeds into a detailed plan. Lacking that, you're not creating a business case for cloud computing, but making an ungrounded suggestion.

For some reason, many people who create business cases for moving to cloud-based platforms believe they can do so using very general information. You can spot such naive proponents by their tendency to quote Gartner and other analyst groups to make their case -- rather than cite the internal issues that should be driving any investment or change. Don't be one of those people if you actually want your business to move the cloud computing and benefit from doing so.

This article, "3 secrets to creating a business case for cloud computing," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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