Are you opportunistic or strategic with your cloud investments?

Cloud computing is a big priority for 35 percent of enterprises. But, how do you ensure your strategy is sound and you're not getting caught up in market hype? James Staten introduces you to Forrester's Cloud Computing Playbook.

Our latest survey on IT budgets and priorities shows that 35 percent of enterprises have a big focus on cloud computing (calling it a high or critical priority), but do we really know how best to apply that investment? 

We continue to see a large disconnect between what the business wants from cloud services and what the IT department wants to offer and support. The short story is the business wants public cloud services (or something very, very close to this value proposition) for delivering new services and capabilities to market. Yet IT wants to offer private cloud solutions that improve operational efficiency and drive down overall IT costs. IT doesn't have its head in the sand about business' demands, they just have to balance these desires against what IT is measured on - the cost and security of services provided. And frankly they don't trust the public cloud.

Knowing the psychology above, how best can an enterprise set a winning cloud strategy? if it invests purely against the business care-abouts it may win time to market but risks investing ahead of its ability to support and protect the business. If it invests against the IT priorities it risks alienating the business, increasing circumvention and being a laggard competitively. The answer lies in striking an appropriate balance between these conflicting priorities and choosing a strategy that encourages the most collaboration between business and IT and accelerating everyone's experience level with these new technologies. And that balance will be different for every firm based on their competitive market, regulatory environment and geography. But in general, most enterprises are being far more conservative than they should.

This means that a successful cloud strategy should push you outside your comfort zone, force organizational change in IT and accelerate innovation. It requires IT to take a leap of faith. How do you ensure you don't make this leap blindly but jump where others have jumped before and follow practices others have shown work? 

Forrester now provides The Cloud Computing Playbook, which gives CIOs with a practical guide to getting the most from their cloud investments by structuring our research findings, forecasts and recommendations into easy to follow modules that guide you through understanding, application, operationalization and advancement. It provides tools for assessing your current maturity, comparing costs, building policies, assessing the readiness of cloud services and vendors, and case studies showing how others have succeeded in leveraging cloud economics. 

Our cloud analysis is broken down into four buckets: 

  • Discover: This is where you can learn about the state and future of cloud computing. Here you will find an update to our landmark 2008 report, "Is Cloud Computing Ready for the Enterprise?" In the 2012 edition, "Make the Cloud Enterprise Ready," we argue that cloud services are ready for enterprise consumption but enterprise IT has to become ready for the cloud
  • Plan: Here you will learn how to plan your strategy for maximum organizational benefit. 
  • Act: Once you have determined your maturity, understood the economics of cloud and plotted its horizon, it's time to start shifting your organization for cloud success. 
  • Optimize: After you have gained initial experience managing cloud services, encourage proactive engagement by the business and started to shift applications to the cloud, it's time to focus on how you can gain more from this experience. 

Where should you start? I recommend assessing your maturity first and foremost so you can determine what's realistic as a plan for 2013. then read my report, "Make the Cloud Enterprise Ready" to ensure you have a solid understanding of what is (and isn't cloud) and what it takes to incorporate it into your portfolio. Then pick from the modules that best meet your current state of cloud investment.