Today's cloud computing projects are missing something - a strategy

Survey finds companies with cohesive cloud strategies have less trouble with cost overruns and staffing shortages.

Everyone at some level is exploring or considering public cloud options for a range of functions -- from automating IT functions to enhancing business processes.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

However, these efforts have yet to be bound up into a cohesive business strategy, and many executives are unsure if their IT departments are up to providing the guidance that is needed.

The survey of 500 executives, published by Softchoice, finds a lack of strategic thinking when it comes to cloud implementations. A majority, 54 percent, report their teams struggle to form an effective cloud strategy, and 52 percent lack a formalized cloud strategy altogether.

Having a cloud strategy makes a big difference, the survey suggests. Compared to IT leaders with no public cloud strategy in place, those with a formal strategy are less likely to grapple with cloud skills gaps, the cloud procurement model, and cloud budgeting. Fifty-eight percent of companies without strategies have experienced cloud failures, compared to only 22 percent of strategy-minded organizations. Seventy-five percent say they are struggling to find the right skills, for example -- compared to 41 percent of those with strategies. At the same time, while 70 percent of companies without strategies ran over budget, only 52 percent of those with strategies have had such issues. If anything, transitioning to public cloud is a slow-moving process for most businesses. A new survey of 500 IT and business executives finds 61 percent "still experimenting with or making limited use of public cloud".

Governance and cost management of cloud initiatives is a challenge. At least 57 percent of executives report they have blown through their cloud budgets, while 44 percent struggle to hold lines of business accountable for cloud spending. In many cases, the line of business executives in the survey feel things would go smoother if they did end-runs around their IT departments. Half of executives had to cancel or postpone an important initiative due to the IT department's "inability to provide the necessary resources or support". However, 46 percent think their teams would be less likely to cancel or postpone major initiatives if they have the right infrastructure in place.

Almost half, 48 percent, believe they can procure apps for their teams faster without the IT department's involvement. Of business leaders who sometimes or never involve IT in software purchasing decisions, 36 percent say their department has its own budget, and "they feel this gives them the freedom to act alone".

Along with lack of strategy, many enterprises lack the right skills. A majority, 53 percent, of executives are struggling to acquire the necessary skills to support cloud initiatives within their organizations. However, at the same time, almost half indicate staff training is not a priority.

The Softchoice report makes some recommendations for organizations seeking a more cohesive approach to cloud:

Understand where you are before deciding where you're going: "Conduct a full assessment of your organizations' current applications, dependencies, and expected service levels."

Invest in talent: IT departments need "to invest in talent as much as technology," the report states. "Provide training, mentorship, or certifications that bring existing employees up to speed."

Employ data analytics against cloud initiatives: "To minimize the risk of exceeding budgets, organizations need tools that offer real-time visibility into who's using cloud services and how. With granular detail, IT leaders can assign costs back to the right departments accurately, create more realistic usage forecasts, and plan budgets around facts."

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