No matter the objective or the division behind the decision, more IT departments today are partnering with service providers as organizations increasingly adopt cloud to improve agility, increase flexibility, cut costs, or see any of the other widely touted benefits this approach provides.
Sixty-six percent of 1,300 respondents purchased cloud professional services for cloud deployment decisions in the United States, according to Technology Business Research's 2012 Cloud Professional Services Study, released today. In a similar survey of 921 executives in 2010, 59 percent turned to external partners, TBR found. This year, 60 percent of enterprise customers expect to increase their spending on cloud professional services, the research firm found.
"The cloud professional services market continues to evolve, with clients moving from proof of concept to the purchasing of cloud services, and implementing cloud infrastructures, leveraging IT to improve revenues, profits and customer satisfaction," said Ramunas Svarcas, TBR senior analyst, in a statement. "Cloud is no longer just an IT challenge, rather a strategic investment impacting company performance in a growing global competitive environment."
Because cloud is so strategic, because it often affects the entire organization, and because it is so crucial to a company's competitiveness, it's vital that IT manage and nurture the bond with its service provider. Like any relationship, however, the tie between outsourced provider and internal team can be anything from tenuous to trusted. Typically, however, the stronger the ties, the better the outcome.
Here's a look at some techniques that have helped IT departments build strong relationships with their cloud service providers, resulting in successful implementations:
Two Organizations, One Team
Ultimately, your cloud service provider should be integrated so well that its employees are considered part of your IT team.
(Source: Nieman Lab)
Selecting the right partner is the foundation of your entire cloud implementation, so don't rush it. Include decision-makers from affected business departments as well as IT; figure out current, short-term, and long-term future needs; and decide the business goals you plan to meet, such as disaster recovery, flexibility, or cost savings. Make sure you have a service level agreement (SLA); many experts recommend an attorney reviews it. And remember, you'll be working closely with this company, so make sure it's a team you trust and like.
Ensure all expectations, goals, and scheduling are down in black and white, agreed upon, and confirmed to eliminate any confusion over mixed messages, incompleteness, or presumptions about who will do what and when. The more you address beforehand, the less you'll have to figure out on the fly.
Communicate well and often
Use all the tools at your disposal to stay in frequent touch with all members of the cloud team, both internal and partner. Regular updates not only alert participants to potential problems, but also further cement the relationship and could lead to new opportunities within the planned implementation. Use collaborative tools to stay current and prevent error or the use of outdated information. As Dennis Drogseth, vice president of research at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), said during a webinar: "IT is not that well-known for good communication skills, and fortunately or unfortunately that's going to be changing, not that everyone's going to be hosting Good Morning, America."
Leverage technological expertise
When The College Network chose EarthLink Business as its cloud service provider, the company leveraged its client's small but powerful internal IT team's knowledge, said Thomas Hobika, vice president of solutions engineering at EarthLink, in an interview. (See: College Network Aces Private Clouds.) By giving its private cloud provider as much insight and information as possible, the College Network empowered EarthLink to succeed in its responsibilities, added Ryan Sallee, CIO of the educational organization. "We were looking for a partner, not a vendor, an extension of our team. And that's what we got with EarthLink. Now and moving forward, so far it's been a great relationship."
Cloud can live up to its hype -- but IT needs to stay on-message and handle what business users should expect from the implementation. In partnership with the service provider, perhaps using some of the information gathered from your provider's other clients during the pre-contract selection process, the cloud team can come up with realistic expectations and a timeline for affected departments and users."The lines are blurring across the various types of cloud services; users need and want to understand cloud' value and immense power much better than they do," said Tom Lamoureux, global advisory leader at KPMG Technology sector, in a release.
In an era of outsourcing and cost cutting, IT professionals can sometimes feel their jobs are in jeopardy once their company inks a deal with a cloud service provider. Cloud service providers are quick to reassure prospective clients, stating that their primary goal is to liberate internal IT staff from mundane and time-consuming tasks so they can focus on innovative and business-critical technologies and processes. As EarthLink's Hobika said: "When we engage with customers there are always different elements throughout the spectrum of engagement. [The College Network] clearly wanted to ensure that IT as a service was something that was strategic. They wanted to focus resources; we could pick up the aspects that would distract them."
If your organization hasn't already adopted cloud, most likely this technology is swirling into your near future. With so much already heaped aboard IT's platter, it's almost equally likely that some or all of this cloud will be implemented with the assistance of a partner. This provider could be one of your greatest allies and assets if you're willing and prepared. After all, who couldn't use a helping hand.
— Alison Diana , ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution