Cloud Governance in a Hybrid World: The New Role of IT

By: Morpheus Data

This guest post was written by Jeff Budge, VP of Advisory Consulting and Product Management, OneNeck IT Solutions

The Cloud as a Change Agent for IT

The continuing adoption of cloud is changing the role of IT departments and their relationship with external resource providers (technology providers, service providers, technology vendors, etc.). At the same time, end users are adopting a digital work style built on consumer technology that is creating demand for user-friendly IT services available on-demand.

Hybrid cloud infrastructures are starting to dominate and IT departments are being called upon to integrate existing systems with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud computing models, while delivering user-friendly services to tech-savvy employees. Employees are increasingly confident in seeking out their own cloud resources if enterprise resources are not easily accessible.

The result is a new IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) model that is rapidly evolving with IT assuming responsibility for brokering business-critical systems to internal departments to ensure increased business agility, process flexibility, and shorter time-to-market. The challenge facing CIOs and internal IT management is how to exploit the advances of hybrid IT and cloud computing without undermining corporate policies and while maintaining governance over the end-to-end environment.

The Cloud + The Consumerization of IT

IT is now forced to think strategically about harnessing cloud services in a manner that offers the same easy-to-use, self-service model as consumer applications. IT has to learn from technology consumerization and take the lead in providing accessible, easy-to-use services at low cost.

With the onset of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) came an employee expectation of the same convenience they get as consumers. Therefore, the next phase of enterprise evolution will require IT to think about harnessing cloud services in the same easy-to-use, self-service model as consumer applications, but specifically deployed for business.

Welcome to ITaaS.

The migration to an ITaaS model requires a mix of legacy and new IT systems, with agile development strategies to make the most of existing systems. To succeed, the CIO will need:

  • Cost visibility across all providers and projects
  • Decision and transformation engines to support current and future operations
  • Cloud management that provides a single pane of glass to manage and broker services

The ultimate goal is to create an ITaaS operational model, where the IT department functions as a distinct business unit serving other lines of business within the organization. Various departments have already started to use cloud-based services on their own (aka, Shadow IT), so ITaaS has to be a competitive services model, providing the same services more efficiently and cost-effectively. In fact, IT will need to maintain a competitive relationship with outside vendors, alternately competing for ‘business’ serving company departments as customers and negotiating vendor services to include in its ITaaS catalog.

To provide consumer-like services, the ITaaS strategy will require the IT department to broker internal and external services and offer them in a consumer-like fashion, such as through a transaction portal. IT will have to present available technology solutions in a unified catalog of available services that integrates back-end services, managing assets, policies, pricing, and governance. Whether services are delivered in-house or from external vendors, access will be seamless to end users.

The ITaaS model can transform IT from a cost center to a service center, delivering services while controlling and mandating governance. By providing better services and a better user experience, IT will discourage shopping for alternate solutions and become a one-stop shop for internal technology needs. With ITaaS, IT becomes an in-house managed services provider.

ITaaS Requires Some Growing Up

Adopting an ITaaS strategy can’t happen overnight. It will require changing corporate culture as well as repackaging available technology. The analysts at 451 Research outline five levels in the ITaaS Maturity Model:

Level 1: Ad Hoc ‘ Where most enterprise IT organizations function today. They are not thinking about ITaaS, but rather are working with SaaS and perhaps IaaS. They also are suffering from the consequences of consumer electronics and trying to rein in the adoption of shadow IT.

Level 2: Repeatable ‘ Early stages of ITaaS. IT has created an inventory of services for use within its own department to manage basic processes and provide control over available applications. This still operates in the application layer and makes the use of some IaaS brokering.

Level 3: Defined ‘ Employees are using their own devices to procure SaaS solutions. The service catalog is now available to the organization at large in some form and offers a consumer-like self-service model. Note that for most enterprises this won’t be an overnight implementation. There are likely one or two departments that serve as pilots. For example, a portal could be created for onboarding new employees, allowing managers to choose the necessary IT workplace resources.

Level 4: Managed ‘ The IT department metamorphoses from a cost center to a service provider for internal departments. IT services are made available to departments which, in turn, pay for services using some form of chargeback model. The IT department is now the broker of both internal and cloud-based services.

Level 5: Optimized ‘ Departments start requesting customized IT services beyond the catalog. The IT department becomes a managed services consultant, working to define and shape procurement requirements and allocate internal and external resources to create new services.

Note that these five phases are truly evolutionary, not revolutionary, and it is virtually impossible to skip past specific levels. If the IT department is considering an ITaaS model, it has to lay the foundation for brokering services (Levels 1 and 2), and then the organization has to be ready to embrace the role of IT as a service provider (Levels 3, 4, and 5). The model won’t work until the organization understands and accepts the new strategic role that IT is going to play.

It Takes a Village

The success of any ITaaS strategy also hinges on the organization’s working relationship with key technology providers. Providing hybrid cloud services and other strategic applications requires partnering with reliable suppliers that can fill the gaps in the ITaaS catalog.

There are basic attributes to consider when assessing any potential technology service provider:

  • They must be reliable, capable and trustworthy
  • They must show an interest in helping the organization succeed
  • They must see beyond the immediate technology needs and suggest ways to realize long-term business goals
  • They need to offer the resources to sustain an ongoing ‘go-to’ working relationship

These are just the basic criteria. When choosing strategic partners, it’s important to look beyond ‘one-size-fits-all’ and partner with vendors that understand your organization and its business goals.

As the IT department evolves to become an in-house managed service provider, external managed service partners need to be prepared to offer a consistent layer of services and management. The goal is to make sure the end user has a consistent experience no matter where the service itself resides. This requires a cultural understanding and alignment with third-party resource providers.

However, before taking the steps to select a managed services partner, the first step should be an internal IT ‘personality assessment.’ This entails a careful evaluation of the IT team to determine what type of IT personality they are striving to achieve. There are essentially three types of IT service personalities, depending on the organization’s ITaaS maturity:

  • Supply Chain ‘ The traditional approach where IT determines the need, identifies the necessary resources, negotiates the terms, procures or builds the components and delivers the service.
  • Broker ‘ IT serves as a mediator between strategic service providers and internal business units. IT’s role is to protect operations and support the business by negotiating terms, price, SLAs, etc.
  • Concierge ‘ The supply chain and the broker approaches are combined in a best-of-both-worlds approach and IT is in control of the end product. Business units come to IT seeking assistance with a problem, and it is IT’s job is to understand the goal and find the resources to provide that service.

Defining the IT personality will make it easier to identify the right strategic partners that are capable of meeting the company’s ongoing needs. Once the internal IT department truly understands their own personality, they are well positioned to choose strategic partners that align on more dimensions than just technical capability.

Bringing It All Together

Recognizing the influence of forces such as cloud and the consumerization of IT, along with understanding who the internal IT department is and where they are on the ITaaS maturity model, forms the foundation for true progress in becoming a strategic service provider to the business.