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Cloud Computing

Andy Mulholland (Global) - Confused About Cloud? Think 'Inside Out and 'Outside In' (Part 2)

In my blog last week, I reflected on ‘cloud confusion’, a phrase that Capgemini uses to describe the mixing up of different perspectives on the cloud – ‘inside-out’ and ‘outside-in’ – causing many organizations to shy away from adopting and taking full advantage of cloud services. The inside-out approach focuses on the Back Office, and the operational capabilities of internal enterprise IT. Whilst, outside-in represents the role that cloud plays in enabling organizations to conduct business with the outside world, supporting the Front Office. But what do ‘inside-out’ and ‘outside-in’ models mean in practical terms for organizations developing a cloud services strategy?

Let’s take an example to bring my point to life. ‘Bring Your Own Device’ - the practice of employees bringing iPads and smartphones to work - is a trend that most accept is revolutionizing the enterprise. However this revolution is not happening across an existing set of applications. Instead employees are participating in external communities using the web as a source of real-time information, and consuming selected services from ‘Apps Shops’. This approach is completely at odds with an ‘inside-out’ view on cloud in the back office, where monolithic enterprise applications use a client-service model to support a centralized computing environment. Little wonder it is a daunting concept to the IT department.

However if an organization takes an outside-in approach to the problem of security, it can be mitigated much more effectively. Relevant users and devices are moved outside the existing secure IT environment to co-exist together using ‘clouds’ to support the consumption of ‘services’ on demand. Everyday applications such as word processing and spreadsheets can be provided as on demand services from clouds such as Microsoft Office 365, and even necessary elements of ERP can be similarly provided.

The shift from email to social networks as a preferred method of communication is another good example of the reshaping of the enterprise within a new outside-in, unstructured world of the Front Office. Today, in many ways, these networks are the glue of our new business environment with the role of finding alignments between events, people, and big data to ‘organize’ collaborative responses to market opportunities. By contrast, social networks are not required in the structured back office on the ‘inside’, as Back Office employees are focused on very different activities, namely the procedures behind running the organization. Both demand different perspectives on, and approaches to, cloud.

But the back office inside-out approach can also lend itself to further evolution of the enterprise by employing cloud technologies such as virtualization for consolidation. The cloud can also be used to increase the flexibility of existing legacy systems and reduce introductory costs for the enterprise.

With these examples in mind, it’s important to reflect on timescales. It’s vital to note that planning for the impact of cloud across all areas does not imply that this impact will come instantaneously or that the adoption of cloud needs to come all at once. The two approaches, inside-out and outside-in have very different value propositions and the time taken from initial evaluation to eventual deployment reflect this as well. However, by stepping back and considering the bigger picture before applying the methodology and approaches outlined above, organizations can begin to clear the mist of cloud confusion within their business.

Cloud is here. It represents a challenge for all organizations both from a strategy and operational perspective, but also a significant opportunity. Getting the strategy right will be a big factor in how successfully an organization can respond to the changing business environment today, and in the future. A cloud strategy is far more than just a technical strategy; it is a strategy for the transformation of the entire enterprise. It involves both business people in new roles demanding a revolution in business capabilities as well as those in existing roles looking to carry out the ongoing evolution of operating efficiency. It’s truly evolution and revolution.

By Andy Mulholland, Global Chief Technology Officer, Capgemini

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