Looking at the amount of column inches the topic of cloud computing receives in the media could easily make any CIO feel now is the do-or-die time when it comes to moving parts of their IT infrastructure to the cloud.

The array of delivery models available to IT organisations can be dizzying and creates one of the biggest challenges facing CIOs today – how do you implement new business-service delivery models while still getting the most from the mission-critical IT infrastructure you’ve invested in for years?

There is no denying that cloud computing has the potential to offer immense business benefits to an organisation, but, and this is a major caveat, only if cloud technology is tightly integrated with the existing mission-critical systems. If not, there is a great danger of ending up with ‘cloud in a corner syndrome’, where new cloud solutions become isolated from the rest of the IT environment and don’t contribute the business value they should.

This could lead to duplicating work, overlapping staff skills, greater resource requirements and higher costs due to increased infrastructure complexity – all of which are the challenges cloud computing promises to solve.

There are ten steps a CIO should consider to avoid “cloud in a corner” syndrome as organisations need to develop a real strategic plan that tightly couples investments in cloud computing to a series of specific business outcomes:

  1.  Don’t move all at once

No enterprise will move 100 percent to a cloud model any time soon. Recognise that IT is moving to a ‘hybrid enterprise’ model, where an organisation makes cloud, traditional, internal and external IT delivery models all work together.

  1.  Define clear metrics and Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

While difficult to define for the cloud, clearly defined SLA’s will allow you to the measure the effectiveness of the way your cloud environment is running, both from a cost and performance objective.

  1.  Ensure you have a single way to manage the total IT environment

This will provide a framework for analyzing enterprise IT requirements, how they fit with tightly integrated cloud-based service delivery methods and existing mission-critical IT resources that will help optimize efficiency.

  1.  Don’t jump the gun – organise your team

Ensure all stakeholders are on board and agree on use cases, roadmaps and expected changes to IT and business processes before you start any implementation. Ensure you define and communicate clearly how your team’s roles and responsibilities will change with a cloud service-delivery model.

  1.  No one size fits all

Moving IT infrastructure to the cloud undoubtedly has the potential to save costs and increase efficiencies, but this needs to be analysed case-by-case – no two organisations and business departments are the same.

  1.  Don’t waste your talent

Make sure you have the right skills on board and avoid a scenario where the technology underlying your cloud is so new that none of your IT people know how to operate it and you have no readiness plan in place so that they can learn to do so.

  1.  Focus on security

Organisations that fail to fully integrate their cloud with their existing IT delivery model will end up with a disparate infrastructure that requires different sets of security tools and policies. A fresh look at security is absolutely essential.

  1.  Be aware of the consumerisation of IT phenomena

The days are gone when the IT team had full control of employees’ use of technology, with everyone using the same hardware and software. Just as many employees have started to sneak their own consumer devices into the organisation, they may already be running cloud applications on the corporate network without your knowledge.

  1.  Rethink business processes

Established processes such as business continuity, security policy and access management will need updating to cater for hybrid environments where some services are delivered via the cloud and others in-house.

  1.  Consider the implications of a changing regulatory environment

The European Data Protection Directive is one of many regulations that we expect to impact the way customers use cloud computing. Make sure you’re aware of how your organisation and your cloud provider can help to ensure you adhere to the latest regulatory requirements.

Cloud computing is a broad framework and the possibilities are endless. The best way to avoid “cloud in a corner” syndrome in the first place is to adopt a comprehensive approach that addresses all of the key IT touch points as highlighted above. It is about building a strategic, future-proof framework that unites the physical world with the cloud that is easy to control, manage, secure and scale.

While the IT vendor community promises an almost zero-maintenance cloud infrastructure, achieving a tight integration with the existing infrastructure is a highly complex undertaking. It may take a lot of time and effort to achieve, but in the long-run, it will pay off not to put the cloud in a corner.