Cloud and the Manufacturing Sector IT Organization
Cloud is an evolution in technology that offers new innovations and opportunities for enterprise IT to drive business advantage quickly and with minimal internal expertise but it’s not a revolution.
The benefits of cloud technology include rapid deployment, mobile accessibility, and pricing flexibility so cloud solutions are increasingly the best business option to dip your toe in the water. As a result, the scope of technology management and the technology roles we play are changing. But in many ways, the basics of effective and strategic enterprise technology management remain the same, only now your cloud partner is strategic.
When we wanted to streamline our travel and expense management process and eliminate time-consuming administrative work, a cloud-based solution that offered a mobile phone app and rapid deployment quickly became the obvious choice. Similarly, a cloud-based solution made the most business sense as a talent management tool for our global organization. We also selected a cloud platform as the basis upon which we built our business analytics and reporting capability.
We have the same responsibilities to ensure proper testing, upgrade scheduling, disaster recovery capabilities, support services, and security as we do with our in-house solutions. The difference is that our cloud solutions offer test environments, disaster recovery capabilities, support services, and security. Management of these areas becomes, negotiation and oversight of the cloud solution’s capabilities and performance rather than the day-to-day administration when these aspects are in house. Solution upgrades and test environments are an excellent example. We are kept on the most current version with the associated increased functionality and bug fixes, but we do not have the same level of control over the timing of upgrades and potential impacts to business schedules. But our cloud solutions offer and manage a test environment with production data, removing the necessity of developing and managing an in house production environment.
“Our cloud solutions offer and manage a test environment with production data, removing the necessity of developing and managing an in house production environment”
Similarly with disaster recovery, support, and security, we own the responsibility to our organization and worked with our cloud solution partners to ensure their capabilities comply with our requirements. As with all our contracts, well defined service level agreements lay the foundation for the relationship. SLAs should have financial repercussions to the vendor if the application or platform is unavailable for a period of time. Specific resolution times for incidents and service requests are extremely important, as is the ability for the internal service desk to raise tickets with the vendor directly. For a global organization, support hours must match global business hours. It’s also vital to consider data ownership and what format data will be delivered to you in the event of termination.
Our colleagues increasingly expect single sign-on capabilities, including with their mobile applications. Additionally, we must ensure cloud solutions comply with our security and onboarding/off boarding requirements. Typically, this means ensuring a cloud vendor has the ability to accept ADFS or SAML assertions to maintain passwords and access to the applications with existing active directory security rules.
Utilizing cloud solutions also meant we could rapidly deploy dynamic tools with mobile capabilities to our global workforce. While complete development and interfacing typically requires double the amount of time the vendor suggests, it is usually still much faster than developing an in-house solution. With a cloud solution it has also been easier to add capabilities by incorporating an additional cloud solution. As cloud technology matures, vendors are realizing they operate in a cloud ecosystem and must be compatible with other solutions in the ecosystem. We have seen compatibility between cloud solutions that is just not possible with on-premise solutions.
The nature of our in house technology roles also evolve with cloud technology. Most of the traditional infrastructure roles may be on the vendor side, but it’s crucial to have the proper internal resources to manage all the above mentioned aspect of cloud solutions. The internal roles required are cloud engineers, cloud solution architects, and developers. This is relatively new so when scoping the number and function of internal resources, the cloud vendor’s input is valuable.
With cloud solutions, the technology cost structure is also evolving, moving away from large capital outlays for a traditional infrastructure model to an operating expenditure model based on building applications and purchasing services (by the drink model). Tiered pricing and the ability to buy incrementally as necessary also provide some cost benefits for cloud solutions.
Enterprise IT is responsible for delivering the technology solutions that will drive a business forward so it’s exciting to witness as cloud technology matures and consider the opportunities it presents for business. The cloud is evolving the scope of our IT management and the technology roles we play, but our commitment to strong technology management remains the same.