You vs. cloud computing

Like it or not, cloud-based "IT as a service" is coming -- and you're in its crosshairs. Are you up to the fight?

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Adapt or die

As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. The best thing we in IT can do to head off the specter of rampant over-outsourcing is to reimagine ourselves and our infrastructures as service providers, with our organizations as the only customer. This forces you to take two important steps: sell your value to the organization as if you're trying to win their business and put a renewed focus on customer service.

In most organizations, IT is viewed as an enormous cost center rather than a value generator. If you allow this perception to fester and grow, the services you provide will be replaced with an (apparently) less expensive cloudsourced version. The only thing you really have to differentiate yourself from the cloud is the unique knowledge you have of your organization and what makes it tick. No amount of outsourcing -- to the cloud or otherwise -- can replace that. But if you want your organization to understand that, you have to sell it and follow through with providing it on a regular basis.

[ Read Matt Prigge's "The Real cost of lying about IT infrastructure costs" to see how trust in IT erodes. |  For a different angle entirely, check out Bob Lewis' "Run IT as a business -- why that's a train wreck waiting to happen." ]

Customer service is always a touchy subject in IT. Our nearly universal disdain for "users," while fun to joke about, has caused a deep rift between IT and the rest of the organization. I know of many companies where the prospect of calling the IT help desk is akin to anticipating a trip to the DMV. The DMV can get away with providing poor customer service -- it's part of the government, and short of armed revolution, it can't be replaced. Neither could IT -- until now. Today, the technology really does exist to do everything you do somewhere else. We can no longer afford to be viewed as a necessary evil.

Put yourself in the driver's seat

Another important thing we can't ignore is that, as with generalized outsourcing, cloud services will in some cases be the best choice for your organization. Digging in your heels and flatly insisting that IT can always do things better in-house will erode your credibility and make you look defensive -- much as the mainframe guys of yesteryear were overtaken the PC. If you proactively beat your management to the punch and start suggesting areas that make business sense to move into the cloud, you'll put yourself in the driver's seat and avoid having the cloud jammed down your throat.

No matter what happens with the cloud and IT as a service, I'm thoroughly convinced that if IT is going escape a massively uncomfortable outsourcing purge, we're going to need to change the way we do business. Start thinking about that now before it's too late.

This story, "You vs. cloud computing," was originally published at Read more of Matt Prigge's Information Overload blog at

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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