How to take credit for the cloud

Now that everyone is getting into cloud computing, it’s difficult to decide who is responsible for the best, and worst, of each project.

Every success has many parents, but all failures are orphans. If the ownership of cloud computing becomes complicated, how can you make this work in your favour?

Insight, a global systems integrator which recently notched its millionth ‘seat’ in the cloud, claims to have a fairly good overview of cloud buying patterns.

It takes its orders from people with all kinds of titles these days. “We speak to CIOs, CFOs, COOs, CMOs and CTOs,” says Ashley Gatehouse, Insight’s marketing director. “They’ve all got a different approach.”

It sounds like there are lot of chiefs but not enough engineers. One of the most strategically important skills, in the boom and bust years of the cloud, will be political acumen. How will you be able to take credit for any work of genius, while making sure your fingerprints are not found on any scenes of cloud crashes?

We asked industry experts for their tips. 

Five tips for taking Credit where it’s due:

1. Make sure you're there from the start

“The biggest fear for a CIO today is if the CFO finds out first and grabs the ball, staking out the cloud computing opportunity before the CIO gets there,” said David Angwin, marketing director at Wyse. 

In a world in which new cloud applications arrive every day, and when they are marketed directly to department heads, it is vital the CIO is seen as the managing overlord who is delegating power to the regions. All successful projects need to have your brand on them and people need to understand they were channeled through you (if they were successful).

“You can do this by working with human resources and facilities departments to ensure the right purchasing policies and limits are in place and adhered to,” said Eoin Blacklock, MD of disaster recovery company KeepItSafe. Without that, no amount of policing by IT will prevent rogue applications being deployed.

Companies usually move with the speed of an ocean liner, so position yourself so you have good monitoring systems to see where the business processes are working well. If you can see the ship is headed for an iceberg, there’s plenty of time to jump in a lifeboat and blame someone else. If something is about to go wrong, appoint a deputy to take over from you and put all the pieces in place for them to take the blame when the house of cards collapses.

2. Run in front of the parade and pretend you are leading it

Make sure anyone who bypasses you and orders cloud services direct is seen to be enjoying your help, even if they don’t need it! It’s important that you are perceived as being the person who made it work.

“CIOs will get credit for making cloud computing work in real terms,” said Angwin. “They are in the best place to exert the control that's absolutely critical for success.”

“Business users who sign up for cloud services get their short quick fix but can expose an organisation to the potential dangers of data and processes being placed with external suppliers with no IT control.”

So make sure you spend a lot of time helping them out with their problems – even if they didn’t encounter any. Also, make sure everyone knows you’re doing it. It’s a tactic every jobsworth in Britain knows – create a panic over a non existent problem, then solve it – very publicly.

3. Play the Security Card

Mike Smart, Safenet’s solutions director, said security is an issue where you can’t lose.

"A CIO can claim credit for when the Virtual Cloudsject goes well by tackling the problem everyone else evades - security in the cloud and the trust it creates,” he said.

The great thing about an invisible threat is that nobody can prove the dragon never existed, or that you haven’t slain it.  

“The best and most cost effective way we see is to maintain control and ownership of information in the cloud is encryption,” said Smart.

“It’s proven technology that the CIO can own and govern the cloud service relationship with absolute control when they manage the keys.”

4. Train the Users

The great thing about cloud applications is they are generally simple, user friendly and call for less training. So what easier way to gain credit is there than to train the end users?

Pretend that what you are asking them to learn is very tricky and, when they pick up the system quickly, you will make the end users feel like geniuses. In return, they’ll have very positive associations with you.

Sarah Sherman, who was head of communication in Centrica's IT department, reported to the CIO and became a master of internal spin.

“End users have very real reasons for liking Cloud applications,” she said. “Compared to the old enterprise applications, they’re generally much easier to use, faster and more mobile because they were designed at the outset with the end user in mind.”

“People tend to use only a small fraction of application functionality so you might be pleasantly surprised.”

5. Speak to People

The IT department and engineers in general are not great at doing their own PR (which is odd, seeing how they specialise in communications).

But with Cloud Computing being such a ‘boon of contention,’ a success that everyone wants to take credit for, it’s important that you break old habits, said Dan Roche at comms vendor Azzuri.

“Speak to that team on the other side of the office,” he said. “The team you might otherwise consider at best fluffy and at worst your nemesis, in terms of the demands they make of you.”

He means the marketing department. You have to swallow your prejudices and speak to them. 

“They are likely to have a range of internal communications tools – the company intranet, staff newsletter, email bulletins and so on – that can be used to showcase your success,” said Roche. Or indeed, to help you tell your side of the story, if that Virtual Cloudsject becomes a crime scene.

Talking of which…

Five Way to Distance Yourself from a Disaster

(Oddly, some contributors wanted to remain anonymous on this aspect…)

1. Involve the end users so they have some skin in the game

The best way for CIOs to protect themselves from failure and blame is to involve end users at every stage of Virtual Cloudsjects, said Sherman. Start by defining functional specifications for new cloud applications. 

“End users should give input to IT project leaders for new applications that take into account their day-to-day requirements and their business and departmental goals,” advised the former IT spin doctor.

“Then the end users should be involved in the vendor evaluations, testing and piloting phases. Involve people from as many countries and divisions of the business as practical.”

2. Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake

"In a world in which new cloud applications arrive every day, and when they are marketed directly to department heads, it's incumbent on human resources and facilities departments to ensure the right purchasing policies and limits are in place and adhered to,” said one MD.

If you can see they are making a mistake, sometimes it’s better just to let them get on with it, but make sure you have registered your caution somewhere that can referenced in future.

Don’t argue too vehemently though, because if you cause a project to be cancelled, nobody will ever thank you and there’s no way you can ever be proved right.

Alison Busby, marketing director for managed services provider the SAS Group, said you can shore up your defences, from a performance and availability standpoint, by monitoring your applications in the cloud.

“You won’t get visibility of the entire application path, from server to end-user – your SaaS provider just isn’t going to allow it – but you can test transactions and quality of experience,” said Busby.

So at least you can identify problems and get your story straight before anyone else notices.

3. Start Spinning 

If the project goes wrong use exactly the same internal comms tools to explain why you’re not continuing with the pilot, said Dan Roche.

Get your explanations in first. Communicate bad news before the wider business hears about it and you are likely to get a better reception – and more leeway to try to innovate further.

4. Don’t mess with anything too important

Rule one is to ensure Virtual Cloudsjects are low cost and low risk to begin with. Ensure some tangible results are delivered – not just technical ones, but ones that the rest of the business would understand.

Better still, if you can show some financial returns, your CFO can sanction you to try something more costly and business critical.

5. Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Lawyers Closer

The lesson we learned from the early days of outsourcing was there are two important frameworks. The IT framework must never collapse, but if it does, and you need to go to court, then you need to make sure your legal framework is of cast iron.

Similarly, with the cloud, you need to have a response for every question, in case things go wrong and blame is being apportioned.

Alternatively, you could use this drilling to make sure that your business processes are so fine tuned that nothing ever goes wrong in the first place.

Make sure nothing goes wrong, and you will be the star of your company.

Remember, where there’s blame, there could be acclaim.

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