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Cloud Computing

Andy Mulholland (Global) - Confused About Cloud? Think 'Inside Out and 'Outside In' (Part 1)

Is cloud an evolution or revolution? This isn’t an idle debate but a symptom of a much wider problem affecting companies everywhere. At Capgemini, we call it ‘cloud confusion’. Cloud confusion is causing many organizations to shy away from adopting cloud services and reaping the benefits of this technology. In this post we explore why it exists, and crucially, the approach organizations need to take in order to eliminate it.

Cloud confusion is partly a result of commentators, vendors and other technology professionals – knowingly or otherwise – mixing up two completely different perspectives on cloud: ‘inside-out’ and ‘outside-in’. It is the bundling together of these approaches, combined with marketing hype that has resulted in private and public sector wariness about cloud.

Inside-out v outside-in

So what is the difference between inside-out and outside-in when it comes to cloud strategy? Put simply, the inside-out approach focuses on the Back Office, and specifically the operational capabilities of internal enterprise IT to support it. Conversely, outside-in represents the role that cloud plays in empowering organizations to do business with the outside world, supporting the Front Office.

The inside-out perspective is typically that of the IT manager who sees cloud as an evolution of the technology within their enterprise. Outside-in is the world view of the business manager who sees cloud as a revolution that is opening up the organization to a new set of opportunities when it comes to delivering services and maximizing business opportunities at scale.

In the Back Office the environment is ‘structured’ and the journey of the last twenty years has seen IT managers use enterprise resource planning (ERP) to fully automate IT processes and ensure that their IT structure is optimized for maximum efficiency. By contrast, the Front Office is an unstructured, customer-facing operational area built around talented people who want access to real-time information to make the right business decision at the right time. For both models – inside-out and outside-in – the organization’s requirement is different, the area of use (Front Office or Back Office) is different and crucially the technology is different too.

The implications

If we accept this interpretation of cloud, what strategy should organizations adopt in order to eliminate cloud confusion, and leverage cloud services to their full potential? In simple terms, the challenge is to work out how to use both cloud perspectives in the right context by looking at how both approaches apply to an organization’s circumstances. However, given the far reaching impact cloud typically has on most organizations, successfully achieving this requires a holistic view across all the functions of a business, and perhaps those of other companies, agencies and partners. This is a big challenge.

In my next blog post on the subject – due to appear on IDG Connect on 7th March - I will dig further into this challenge, focusing in particular on what the inside-out, outside-in model means in practical terms for organizations developing a cloud services strategy.

By Andy Mulholland, Capgemini’s Global Chief Technology Officer. Read Andy's CTO blog here.

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