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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Forecast: Partly Cloudy

Lately, I've been getting a lot of queries for "cloud strategy" – "what's my cloud strategy", "what should we be doing with cloud". Now cloud is a broad topic and I could talk for hours about what you can do with cloud in your IT organization and even across your enterprise, but that's the wrong approach. The whole engagement is framed incorrectly. The fundamental flaw is the question about "cloud strategy". If you want an answer to that, how about this: "you don't need one."

That's not to say ignore the onslaught of marketing that is driving the cloud hype or even discount the myriad success stories of companies that have employed cloud technology. Instead, look to cloud for what it's for – a suite of tools to leverage for business advantage. The question isn't "what's my cloud strategy"; it's "what's my business strategy". "What is my strategy for growth and expansion?" "What is my strategy for reaching more customers in innovative ways?" "What is the best path towards frictionless commerce in my global enterprise?" And ultimately, "how can cloud technologies help me achieve those goals?"

Developing a strategy to integrate cloud technologies into your enterprise is a bit like a the expression, "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail". Cloud is simply the hammer, a tool to help you get your work done. You shouldn't look for things to hammer; rather, reach for the hammer when you find a use for it.

Perhaps you're a manufacturing enterprise whose crown jewels are computers controlling the robots on the assembly line. You may have little need for infrastructure burst capacity to support an online ordering application so a public, private or hybrid approach to infrastructure would be a poor fit in this case. Does that mean you can't leverage any cloud technologies? Of course not. Cost reduction is key in a low margin vertical and may be realized by purchasing email and office applications from a Software as a Service (SaaS) pay-as-you-go provider. They key is not to fit your business to the cloud, but apply cloud technologies to your business.

Remember, cloud isn't the end game. Growth or cost efficiencies or business process improvements or better customer reach – whatever your business goals are – that's the end game. So instead of looking at how to use a cloud service, look at your business and determine where cloud services can help you. Cloud isn't an all or nothing proposition so you don't need a strategy for "cloud". Understand your business, keep your goals in focus, develop your plans and execution strategy and keep your feet on the ground while reaching for the sky.

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