How to align business and IT objectives for cloud adoption

With an economic downturn looming, IT budgets flattening and teams working remotely, it’s more important than ever that organisations get their cloud strategies right.

Indeed, early indicators suggest business decision makers are rethinking their cloud usage. According to IDC, approximately 85% of businesses are looking to repatriate cloud workloads for cost or security reasons. They are also having issues with shadow IT, unforeseen SaaS solutions spun up by line of business (LoB) and the financial cost of virtual machines being left on or underutilised. And some companies are reportedly ‘panic buying’ cloud collaboration software.

This is clearly a good time for IT leaders to pause, reflect and make sure their IT teams are aligned with the business regarding cloud. Here are five tips to help.

  1. Align IT and business objectives

Alignment is easier said than done. A recent 2020 State of the CIO study from discovered a dramatic shift in priorities following COVID-19, potentially pushing IT-LoB relationships apart. Six months ago, technology leaders were more focused on aligning IT initiatives with business goals and driving business innovation. But now, they’re centred on cost control, operational efficiency and IT rationalisation.

So, how do you get IT and business stakeholders onto the same page for cloud? It starts with early engagement. Involve enterprise project managers and business departments in the IT strategic planning stage so they can articulate and explain their objectives. Perhaps create a merged team to eliminate the gap between business and IT. Or you could use a strategic business relationship manager to bridge the gap between the two sides.

Ultimately, if you fail to bridge this gap, then you will likely fail with your cloud strategy. “You have to build a business case and lay out the long-term advantage and strategic benefit of a move to the cloud for the company. If you approach a migration to the cloud as just an IT project, you’re dead – you just don’t know it yet,” says Bob Worrall, CIO at Juniper.

  1. Communicate constantly

However you bring your IT and business teams together, you need to keep business managers on board when it gets technical, answering their questions and explaining the technology aspect as you go. But you also need to ensure your IT personnel – even the most technical – understand higher-level business perspectives and goals, so they can optimise their efforts to ensure positive business outcomes. For example, the business may have security, risk, governance, customer experience, supply chains or competition in mind, so it’s helpful for IT to understand this. Indeed, some technology leaders say that IT teams should be much more proactive in working with business teams anyway.

“[IT] will be communicating with the not-IT teams and advocating and championing new ways of doing things – and helping others in their company reskill for the future,” says Emile Zafirov, CIO of Logistics Plus, when recently describing how IT must align with LoB on cloud migration projects.

“This way IT teams play a much larger role both in the present and the future of their companies than just doing IT.”

  1. Work closely with other business units

As a key business leader, you need to keep everyone talking as the cloud migration progresses, especially other business units. The pandemic has brought rapid digital change, which can sometimes cause mistrust with IT leadership – particularly when it means introducing technology that changes business working practices or workflows.

However, collaborating closely with LoB will help to reinvent processes, identify new business opportunities and support better working practices.

  1. Share the same strategic vision

Technology and business leaders need to map out a shared strategic vision for the long term: one that takes into account both views. This is where IT leaders need to have a seat at the top table, from where they can better align their strategy to that of the business.

“We don’t have IT priorities, we have business priorities,” said University of Sussex CIO Jason Oliver, when he was director of ICT at the Science Museum Group.

“We understand those by communicating with peers across the group, and then we work back from those strategic objectives. We shouldn’t be doing anything as an IT department that is not meeting the strategic objectives and deliverables that we need to move forward as a group.”

In fact, IT or business stakeholders can drive cloud strategy. And once the IT team is on board and aligned with the business, they can become catalysts for changing the organisation’s culture, responsible for introducing significant advantages in the long run, such as cloud scalability, business agility and rapid time to market.

  1. Re-evaluate IT goals

Common IT goals for cloud may include quality of service, interoperability, automation, workload efficiency, or agility through methodologies such as DevOps and DevSecOps.

However, you need to re-evaluate these goals against the business’s vision, to ensure they translate successfully. The business vision might require an improvement in customer experience or retention, or an increase in productivity among home-based workers. Consequently, you may need to align cloud KPIs, such as utilisation, latency and reliability, to business objectives, in order to anchor them firmly in the business world.

Ultimately, getting the cloud strategy right means closely aligning business and IT. This will better enable you to navigate the post-pandemic marketplace with cloud services that benefit everyone.

Respond, reset, renew

Make sure your organsation is getting maximum benefit from its cloud investment: read the guide, Rethink The Cloud As You Respond, Reset and Renew, to help you on the path to cloud acceleration and optimisation.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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