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CIOs a help, not a hindrance, to adoption of cloud solutions

Cloud solutions vendors are claiming that CIOs don’t want to buy cloud. Really? Here are four CIOs whose cloud projects are proving otherwise.

Douglas Kim doesn’t mince words when it comes to selling cloud solutions.

“If you’ve been traditionally selling to IT, you have to stop," said Kim, managing director for the global cloud business at Pegasystems Inc., a customer relationship management (CRM) and business process management provider. "They will not buy your stuff. Trust me.”

Kim's blunt advice would be enough to make any CIO bristle. Worse yet, he wasn’t alone in his views.

Although not all as overt as Kim, cloud solutions vendors at a recent Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC) summit on cloud computing implied in presentation after presentation that when it comes to leveraging cloud solutions, CIOs are becoming obsolete. The idea of the business circumventing IT, and, in particular, of end users driving the move to cloud computing, is nothing new. The business has a need, it finds an application, it adopts the application and IT never knows -- until something goes wrong.

But the business can’t beat you to the cloud if you’re already there. Attending the same summit as Kim were four CIOs who insist that shadow cloud deployments don’t have to be -- nor should they be -- the new order of things.

Cloud deployments: Been there done that

About two years ago, as the nation was headed into a recession, Larry Bolick, CIO at Boston-based Aquent LLC, was looking to manage costs while maintaining agility. He moved front-office applications to the cloud and switched to Google Inc.’s Gmail. He replaced in-house phones with a cloud-based voice service and farmed ERP systems out to Amazon Web Services LLC. Today, more than a half dozen of Aquent’s front-office applications are cloud-based.

I kind of almost did a subversive rending of control of from sales ops because I knew we could do it better.

Dan Petlon, CIO, Enterasys Networks Inc.

“When we move an office, which happens quite frequently, all we do now is basically tell the office, ‘Unhook the router, unplug the cable modem, hook them up at the new location and call us on your cell phone,’” Bolick said. (Learn more about his efforts in "Cloud computing success at Aquent means going all in.")

Bill Scudder, CIO at Sonus Networks Inc. in Westford, Mass., said he looked to the cloud to transform a company that -- despite providing advanced solutions for IP networking -- harbored internal IT operations stuck in the 1980s and 1990s.

Like Bolick, Scudder was operating under the shadow of the recession. Knowing he had to make fast, cost-effective improvements, he tapped his prior experience with cloud solutions. While working at another company, Scudder responded to complaints from 600 field workers about issues with Seibel CRM solutions by moving to Inc. Seeing what was before him at Sonus, he said, he knew the cloud would be his “savior.”

Bringing internal systems into the 21st century, he said, required a lot of change management and internal selling. There were several small pilots and even a field trip to Enterasys Networks Inc. to see how that company made cloud solutions work. (Scudder had met Enterasys CIO Dan Petlon through a user group). That visit turned out to be a turning point. In the years since, Sonus has undergone a transformation that brought IT into this century and, Scudder said, continues to be “cloud all the way.”

IT innovation through cloud solutions

When Petlon joined Andover, Mass.-based Enterasys, the company was already using for sales and services. He said he quickly saw that the services side was making innovative use of Platform as a Service (PaaS) to leverage service delivery, while sales operations had kept things rather “vanilla.”

To bring the sales side’s use of the platform up to par, Petlon’s team developed an application on top of that allows sales reps to give customer quotes with a click of a button. Faxes and manual entries were also replaced by a click-button processing feature of the application.

“When a quote becomes an order, they just click a button and sales can attach a purchase order, and that flows over to SAP order management to process the order for shipment,” Petlon said.

It was easy to see that difference in innovation on the services side in the tool set vs. the sales side,” he added. “So I kind of almost did a subversive rending of control of from sales ops because I knew we could do it better.”

Thanks to the success found with the new sales and services platform, the move to cloud solutions continued. Petlon now has about 25 cloud hosted applications in use.

As the IT gatekeeper of a company heavily reliant on data privacy, it might be understandable if Tom McLain, CIO at Old Mutual (US) Holdings Inc., were hesitant to employ cloud solutions. But moving to the cloud becomes a non-issue , he said, if CIOs put in the work to build the right relationships and ensure that IT and the business are on the same page. At Old Mutual, annual training programs on compliance and privacy policies ensure that users -- and IT -- understand what data is sensitive and therefore unsuitable for the cloud, and which applications can be cloud-born. McLain maintains strong relationships with the head of compliance and legal to keep his team current on the issues.

“We work together to understand what the risks would be if someone were to just go out and get a cloud solution and start pushing data without having done due diligence, without having done analysis,” McLain said.

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