For some time now corporate IT departments have just become another operational function with little capability to drive transformational change. As such, there has been a need to find ways of adding value to business processes, not simply focus on infrastructure maintenance and day to day application support. 

With easy to use devices now used by most business people, helping individuals to sync their smart phones and recover passwords does not warrant IT support time. Now, infrastructure needs can be served up as managed services and compute power delivered via data centres and cloud computing providers. So, there is an inflexion point that presents a huge opportunity to IT departments to drive the next wave of business transformation.

An inflexion point where two trends converge

The key factors behind these changes are cloud computing and IT consumerization. IT consumerization continues to impact our business lives every day. From a user’s perspective most of this is for the better. It brings a whole range of devices and applications into the workplace that have been specifically developed to be engaging and easy to use for people with limited or no technical capability whatsoever.

These services, sometimes free, and products, often expensive, that are developed for the consumer market first and foremost, have captured the imagination of everyone. That makes them first choice on the desirability list for both personal and business use. Interestingly, the adoption and desirability tends to be challenged by many IT departments who see such services and devices as problematic, threatening and difficult to manage.

Business transformation opportunity

With change often comes resistance and there has been a fair degree of that where cloud computing is concerned but not because people are not open to the possibilities. Firstly, there is a great deal of confusion around cloud.

So, business people need someone to help them see their way through the hype with real and practical advice about what cloud could mean to them and how it would help them move more quickly towards their business objectives. Without this clarity and the ability to devise a tailored strategy and roadmap to the cloud it will remain difficult for people to see the huge value and potential to drive business transformation that is on offer.

Cloud computing is not a panacea so should not be seen as a threat to the IT department. Cloud is increasingly finding its rightful place as a transformational technology for businesses that want to improve their agility, operational efficiency, cost control and growth potential. IT departments are often unable to take a leadership approach and drive the strategy for change because they do not have their own voice at board level.

This means the leadership team of an organisation must be the sponsors to driving such change and give permission to the IT department to nudge them along this journey. It is the CEO, CFO, CIO and COO that are now responsible for defining the future strategy and value that investments in business technology will deliver to their organisations.

Maximise the value from your IT budget

Some things work very well in the cloud and it makes no sense to do them in-house and on-premise anymore. These days, owning and managing large computing and networking infrastructure is simply not cost effective when it can be delivered as a service at fixed monthly prices, with all the hassle and cost of supporting it taken away.

There will no doubt be some technologies that an organisation wants to keep close because it is core to the differentiation and uniqueness of the organisation. So, a balanced, hybrid approach is necessary.

Further, most organisations will take a pragmatic phased approach to migrating to the cloud. Generally the first step is to put the infrastructure requirements into the hands of a trusted service provider who can manage and maintain the service for you at a fixed monthly price. This now becomes an operational expense rather than a capital one.

Once the infrastructure is in place you can then cherry pick which applications you want to move to the cloud and when. This will free up IT department time and resource to focus more effectively on the things that really make a difference – helping you get maximum value from the IT budget.

Bottom line for UK businesses

A recent Special Report in the Economist magazine stated that some City-based organizations will save more than £600k a year over the next few years simply by not having to run and support in-house systems for email and other utility applications. This can be easily delivered back as a service with higher levels of security, service and at a lower cost than can be guaranteed by the IT department.

But it’s not just the largest companies that stand to benefit from this alternative approach. Harvard Engineering is a UK success story and an Award winning company that has used cloud services to help it establish an innovative approach to street lighting management as provided by local councils across the UK. This helps to reduce the estimated 830,000 tonnes of CO² produced in the UK every year by street lighting.

With approximately 7.5 million street lights in the UK alone, new technology to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions has been a welcome development. The solution is delivered as a service via a cloud computing platform. That means the councils buying it do not have to invest in or maintain software and hardware that has to be securely housed on their own premises and fed with power and cooling to keep it running.

So, the green credentials and benefits run from the service provider all the way to UK residents. That’s as it should be as they are the ones that ultimately pay for and benefit from the street lighting delivered by local councils.