Our previous article discussed an overview of digital business and the public cloud being an ideal platform to deliver.  Now let’s discuss one of the major challenges in creating digital business applications in the cloud – business culture.

First, let’s describe the pressures on enterprises today.  Most large companies are struggling with understanding the rapid pace of change occurring in the public cloud – be it AWS, Azure or Softlayer.  IT organizations are comfortable with changes happening every three to five years since that is the normal capitalization timeframe for computer hardware.  However, with the wide adoption of public cloud, enterprises are facing tremendous competition from startup companies and progressive enterprise competitors.

By using public cloud properly, many enterprise can cut their costs over 50% (depending on the workload), but a more significant impact is that it increases the company’s ability to innovate.  Innovation in existing enterprise IT is usually impeded by the time and cost to deploy computer hardware for experimenting on new ideas.  Basically this requires significant planning and justification just to an idea.  With public cloud, IT or a business unit can easily try a new idea for a few months with little planning or cost, thus increasing the ability to innovate by being freed to try new ideas.

Now,  why is innovation important when discussing changing business culture?  Let’s explore why it takes eight weeks to deploy a new server.  You might think it takes a while to order the system, but in most cases the time is spent working through IT processes to ensure security, billing, power management, network setup, etc.  A well-running enterprise IT organization needs to comply with many regulations and rules to ensure compliance with standards such as SOC, PCI, HIPAA, etc.

So why can public cloud do this faster, cheaper and more nimble and still comply with these regulations and standards?  It’s simple – public cloud focuses on building capacity at scale versus building capacity when the business requests it.  By using economies of scale, public cloud providers can maintain systems that comply with regulations that can be deployed in minutes versus eight weeks.

How does this change business culture?  Using public cloud requires some different skills.  For example, installing a load balancer in AWS requires launching the service in the public cloud instead of creating a PO, sending to a preferred vendor, waiting for delivery, deciding power consumption, cooling needs, network setup, physically installing the device, configuring the device, etc.

While there are similar tasks in some aspects, many of the tasks of physically installing computer hardware are no longer required.  No matter if the enterprise manages its own data center or has it outsourced, many IT organizations resist this change.

I think many CIOs understand the need to change and are pushing their organizations to embrace public cloud, private cloud and new methodologies, such as DevOps, to make these changes.  We find many similarities with the personal computer disrupting the mainframe mindset in the late 1980’s.

Enterprise IT organizations need to change business culture to embrace the new era of digital business and the public cloud, but most challenges will not lie within technology.  The major challenges will be people, process and education.  People tend to resist change that they do not understand, and existing vendors will use FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) to slow change because their install base is at risk.

So how does enterprise IT undergo a culture change?  Education and critical thinking.  Learn as much as you can about public cloud.  Learn how it is used.  Learn why it is simpler.  Learn how your team can be more nimble.  Learn how you can cut costs.  Many of these learnings are foreign to how enterprise IT works today, but once the concepts are understood, amazing things can happen.

-Joel Rosenberger, EVP Software, Executive