Failure to see eye-to-eye with users about cloud could mean tough times for IT

Accenture survey shows business units unhappy with IT and progress toward cloud

There is a deep schism between business units and IT at many companies considering cloud computing, largely because the two have completely opposite views of security in the cloud, according to a new report.

Business-unit managers are frustrated at the speed with which IT delivers on its promises, and don't see much security or privacy risk, or even much danger in the potential to be locked in to one cloud vendor, according to Cloud and the Future of Business (PDF) from Accenture and the London School of Economics'  Outsourcing Unit, which was published yesterday.

IT managers saw data security, privacy and the potential cost of lock-in as serious problems.

The survey of more than 1,000 business and IT execs covered both technical and organizational issues surrounding cloud computing in large companies.

It concluded that IT at many companies is being viewed as reducing the company's agility, rather than enhancing it, according to Andrew Greenway, global cloud programme leader for Accenture.

Accenture's conclusion is that cloud computing and virtualization are fundamentally creating fundamental changes in the requirements for successful IT operations and their relationships with business units.

Business-unit managers are educated enough on technical issues and aware enough of developments in mobile computing, cloud and virtualization that they can legitimately demand the kind of dynamically changing IT infrastructure they know is possible from those technologies.

They don't always have a realistic understanding of the serious short-term risks and weaknesses in cloud -- including legal and regulatory compliance, managing cultural relationships, lock-in, flexibility of cloud technology and ease of , the report said.

Business units drive expectations for IT departments, however, and are increasingly bringing the same kind of pressure for cost savings and expert help from outside the company that drove the first few waves of major IT outsourcing during the '80s and '90s.

Large-scale migration to cloud technologies is so complex it will likely take as long as a decade for most organizations to fully integrate them, despite demands by business units who see sophisticated IT services they could buy with a credit card, the report said.

That creates a tremendous potential danger for IT departments that resist cloud too strenuously, even if their concerns are perfectly legitimate.

There's no real conclusion in this portion of the report -- it's the first of a five-parter.

It does make the point that it's important to differentiate short-term and long-term risks and benefits, and teach business-unit managers about them.

Basically it becomes a balance between how much flexibility IT can give the business units using cloud, without costing so much in contract management, service duplication, integration and additional security that can't move as quickly as necessary on longer-term migration.

Buy SAAS, aim for IAAS, essentially, and hope not to get outsourced in the meantime.

It's a good thing most IT people got into this area because they love corporate politics so much. It's going to be a much bigger part of the job during the next few years.

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