Cloud is a viable option for IT projects, but not the first consideration

Cloud is now a viable option for many IT projects, requiring infrastructure and operations leaders to expand the scope of systems as they actively consider those that are cloud-based.

Cloud is now a viable option for many IT projects, requiring infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders to expand the scope of systems as they actively consider those that are cloud-based.

This is the first of four major I&O impacts identified by Gartner from its 2015 CIO Survey, "Flipping to Digital Leadership: The 2015 CIO Agenda”, which polled more than 2,800 CIOs that accounted for $397 billion of IT spend and $202.5 billion of I&O spend.

"The survey results show that, for most CIOs, public cloud is an option for projects, but only a first consideration for a small minority," says Dave Russell, vice president and distinguished analyst, Gartner.

"I&O leaders have been more protective of their existing infrastructure and, in many cases, have been the biggest obstacle to cloud-based solutions, often resorting to cloud-washing as an excuse to not seriously pursue a true cloud-based solution.

“Instead, I&O leaders should institute a 'cloud-first' consideration for every project on an application-by-application basis."

According to the survey, nine percent of users today are not even considering cloud computing for software-as-a-service (SaaS) projects, a number that increases to 15 percent for infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) projects.

While a larger percentage view cloud as something to consider on an exception basis, nearly half have quickly moved from viewing cloud as a concept to a viable option.

"While the best solution for the business may indeed be an on-premises, non-cloud deployment model, I&O teams need to include all options in order to make the best use of available resources and to ensure that service requirements are met," adds Mike Chuba, research vice president, Gartner.

"Rather than ignoring the cloud outright, or only reluctantly considering it, evaluating all implementation models at the outset of a project can help save time and produce better results."

Three further impacts were revealed by the survey:

Firstly, the mobile delivery and experience of IT systems, both for internal and external customers, is now a top concern in system design, requiring I&O organisations to shift priorities and skill sets.

The CIO survey responses indicate that mobile devices are now the primary or secondary interface for a significant number of IT investments.

The survey also showed that 71 percent of CIOs felt an increasing need for context-aware services.

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For I&O leaders, this means mobility must now be a top concern in system design - it also means that simply making a service available on a mobile device is not enough. Instead, services must be specifically built for those devices, so they are useful and not a hindrance.

I&O leaders should assume that a variety of devices will access every application and build those applications accordingly as well as viewing mobility as not just being about devices and infrastructure, but about the individual and their experience with IT systems.

Secondly, CIOs are recognising the need for modern, advanced analytics and IT business value metrics, requiring new IT systems and ways of thinking.

To support the changing analytics game, I&O leaders will need to lay an IT foundation for predictive analytics — an effort that is difficult but decreasing in cost thanks to parallel processing frameworks that can run analytics solutions.

They will also need to run data-led experiments, working with their business unit colleagues. For example, I&O leaders can run a social-listening activity to better understand the needs of the end customer.

In supporting new information initiatives such as social listening, I&O leaders will need to better manage unstructured data so that it can be exploited by the business and look for additional and/or new data sources specific to the project and begin mining them.

CIOs must also refocus on analytics for their own teams where new metrics will be needed to drive the business forward.

Thirdly, I&O teams need to prepare today to deploy post-nexus technologies, which are already on enterprise radar.

The Nexus of Forces (mobile, social, cloud and information) is not on the horizon; it is here. The survey findings underline the fact that CIOs are beginning to think about — and even actively pursue — post-nexus technologies.

These technologies include the Internet of Things (IoT), thinking machines, augmented human, 3D printing and robotics. If they haven't already, I&O leaders must ready themselves and their organisations for a culture of experimentation, innovation and deployment of post-nexus technologies.

There is, however, an obstacle to post-nexus technologies. CIOs, on average, are stuck thinking about now, rather than the future, with 84 percent of CIOs surveyed focused on the near term of three years or sooner.

New digital business initiatives will require IT talent, leadership and integration skills. I&O leaders will need to find ways to help not just the CIO, but the rest of IT, spend less time on running the business to afford opportunities to grow and, ideally, help transform the business.