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Tony Bishop

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Article

Realizing Cloud for the Enterprise

Delivered through a meta-IT management and governance strategy

Most organizations today continue to view technology as merely a back-office cost center, a viewpoint that diminishes the breadth of Enterprise IT's impact on a firm's competitive profile. To contribute to strategic growth, IT's role has to be understood as far more than a repository of software and hardware applications. Instead, it should be seen from a meta-IT perspective, a perception that examines and understands the management of IT as a firm-wide service and infrastructure fabric in the cloud that collaborates with business units to respond rapidly, innovatively, and cost-effectively to changing market conditions.

Traditional IT strategy and governance models fail because they do not take into account the changing needs of the markets in which businesses operate and the new cloud-enabling technologies that are now available to expedite and facilitate optimized IT management. The strategy to fill this void is the concept of a meta-IT model in which IT is positioned as complementary to other strategies for attaining greater market agility.

Meta-IT represents a new IT management framework and governance of cloud delivery of services packaged into a set of results-oriented best practices. Even though it is vendor neutral, it is not divorced from the technological capabilities that make management more effective. The fundamental premise of the meta-IT cloud model is that IT management must be viewed holistically from the enterprise level, abstracted away from the conglomeration of software and hardware components. In other words, IT has to be viewed as more than the sum of its parts to exploit the impact of cloud delivery.

In his definitive paper "What Is Strategy?" Michael Porter highlighted that competitive advantage is a consequence of differentiating strategies, not operational effectiveness:

"Operational effectiveness (OE) means performing similar activities better than rivals perform them. Operational effectiveness includes but is not limited to efficiency. It refers to any number of practices that allow a company to better utilize its inputs, by, for example, reducing defects in products or developing better products faster. In contrast, strategic positioning means performing different activities from rivals' or performing similar activities in different ways."

Differentiation stems from making unique choices both in the firm's activities and in how the firm performs those activities. Firms must make certain choices vis-à-vis IT as well - choices that include but are not limited to software and hardware decisions. The only way to end this cycle is to transform IT from service provider to strategic partner using a meta-IT cloud delivered approach.

Meta-IT that enables cloud-like delivery of services in an enterprise can be achieved through a set of systematically institutionalized practices:

  1. Change your mindset: Recognize IT as part of the revenue-generating value chain.
  2. Forge business-IT partnerships: Trust to educate, educate to trust.
  3. Think like an investor: Understand the economics of supply and demand.
  4. Break silos: Invest in a portfolio of common services.
  5. Be efficient and eco-efficient: Construct a real-time infrastructure cloud utility.
  6. Empower IT personnel: Create a product management environment.
  7. Provide transparency: Measure performance and conduct forensics.
  8. Sustain impact: Build skills through education and training.
  9. Encourage ownership: Institutionalize incentive structures.
  10. Visualize the future: Use playbooks to imagine scenarios.
  11. Deliver results: Plan strategic solutions that include short-term benefits.
  12. Evolve continually: Adopt an iterative approach

The bottom line is, when implementing a Meta-IT framework, firms are required to invest in an elite team of experts well versed in technology management, business domains, and the latest innovations in technology implementation. But just as important, it requires each of them to be change agents - individuals committed to a new wave of thinking even in the face of the organizational resistance. Organizational resistance is an unfortunate but common phenomenon whenever innovative processes and technologies are introduced in firms with an entrenched corporate culture.

More Stories By Tony Bishop

Blueprint4IT is authored by a longtime IT and Datacenter Technologist. Author of Next Generation Datacenters in Financial Services – Driving Extreme Efficiency and Effective Cost Savings. A former technology executive for both Morgan Stanley and Wachovia Securities.

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