Cloud Computing

Nic Merriman (UK) - Tech Savvy Employees Demand Cloud Freedom


‘Cloud sprawl' is an increasing challenge for CIOs who recognise that the popularity of cloud services is spreading fast among employees as a result of low cost and rapid provisioning capability. In terms of a definition, cloud sprawl can best be described as the unmanaged spread of cloud services (many of which are public), such as CRM, web email and file sharing services, inside the enterprise in a non-strategic way. As more and more employees demand the same flexibilities and efficiencies in the workplace as they receive in their personal lives, many are indicating that they regularly bypass IT in order to use public cloud applications and services. For CIOs this presents considerable risks to data security as well as potentially higher costs if left unmanaged - as a consequence we see this moving up the CIOs agenda.

Over the past few months Avanade has been observing this trend and our research has found that over 50% of employees in a quarter of businesses regularly use public cloud services at work. In fact, we found that 1 in 5 employees have personally purchased a cloud service without the IT department's knowledge because it was easier or quicker to do so. For 60% of businesses, unmanaged and hidden cloud sprawl is an increasing concern, presenting new challenges for CIOs. It suggests there's a marked shift in the need for IT to understand, and align with, the needs of the workforce today, as well as considering how to define cloud policies and guidelines to support strategy.

Many of the problems we see at the moment rest with the fact that employees want quick and easy access to corporate data and services which is readily available, accessible and shareable. This is often restricted, or indeed prevented, by complex IT processes and systems which have not been designed with today's generation of information workers in mind. This pushes employees to look at innovative and alternative methods of achieving their goals which, due to the ease-of-use of many public cloud applications, often results in employees adopting public cloud based services which in turn outpace IT's ability to manage and control them.

As cloud computing is set to play a pivotal role in enterprise IT strategy (54% of European businesses say that cloud computing is their top IT priority), it is important for companies to take advantage of the flexibility it provides to employees, the productivity efficiencies it brings and its importance in contributing to the wider businesses objectives. With all the benefits cloud can offer it's clear that CIOs need to have a better view of the use of and requirements for cloud services within the business.

Firstly IT needs to get its arms around what is going on inside the organisation. A cloud audit will identify where cloud is being used, what it is being used for and where the gaps in requirements exist. It will also enable IT to identify any gaps in policies and governance that are preventing the correct adoption strategy. This will help to develop a migration roadmap that can consolidate current cloud deployments and frame the strategic end game for the organisation's cloud strategy. Managing cloud sprawl requires a real cooperation and dialogue between IT and the business.

Secondly, to get on the right path to managing cloud sprawl companies then need to create and communicate a clear, user-centric cloud strategy. It has to be defined with all key stakeholders in mind and mapped to business objectives. Enterprise cloud strategies and policies must be clear, concise, and regularly communicated throughout the organisation. It is also important to clearly demonstrate concrete business benefits delivered by internal services and provide guidance on how to use cloud services effectively provisioned by IT.

Thirdly IT must enforce and refine policies on an ongoing basis. Companies should have a constant dialogue with end-users to understand what applications and services would help them do their job better, as well as teach them about the risks of using tactical cloud services.

This structured approach will ensure that IT remains flexible and responsive to workers needs, which ultimately improves business efficiency and data security. Cloud sprawl need not be a headache for IT managers, nor should it be seen as an opportunity to stop innovation. Instead it should be seen as an opportunity and a catalyst for realising even greater cloud advantages - through holistic strategy aligned to business goals.

By Nic Merriman, head of cloud computing, Avanade



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