Denis Edwards' strategy for cloud computing is important precisely because it is a strategy.
Most CIOs don't have a strategy for cloud. They're tinkering and pilot testing. They have some good SaaS success stories. They have good ideas for where cloud's variable infrastructure might fit.
Edwards and his IT team at Manpower, a $16 billion-a-year company that provides employment services in 82 countries, have specific areas they're targeting to get an edge with cloud computing--and areas they think it doesn't make sense. Cloud opportunities--both infrastructure as a service and software as a service--will be an explicit part of Manpower's annual budget and IT planning discussions that start next month. The company's data governance practices address SaaS and infrastructure as a service.
Maybe Edwards and his IT team are six months or a year or an eon ahead of your company in thinking about cloud. Or maybe you're ahead. Consider this a benchmark. Is your cloud strategy at the right place, with regard to the business opportunity cloud computing offers?
IT's Still Built For ERP
Edwards isn't a likely suspect to blow up any time-honored IT practices. His CTO Kin Lee is a six sigma black belt, steeped in lean IT and process discipline. Governance is the first idea he talks about when it comes to cloud computing. He's no radical.
Yet he's convinced IT needs to change how it operates, and its expectations for how it delivers value to businesses. Cloud computing isn't going to fade away. "I don't think this is a fad that was introduced just because we were in an economic downturn," he says.
IT grew up on "really big ERP implementations," Edwards says, and that's the battle IT teams still are built to fight--from budgets to timelines to infrastructure. But consider a fast-moving trend such as social networking. Can an IT team create an application or service that taps into social networks if it's based on six-month deliverables and a 2-year launch schedule? Says Edwards:
We're used to managing things on a very large scale. Now, you've got opportunities to be a bit more innovative, and get an application out much more quickly than in the past, because you don't have to provision all the infrastructure. You can leverage the SaaS models that are out there. We need to get part of our IT organization more focused around those opportunities, instead of thinking of everything as this big monolithic application. So that's my challenge to my team constantly. I'll say that's great for a full project, but have you thought about how we can do something in 90 days? To prototype and pilot so we're sure we're going to get the value out of it?
Social networking is a real example for Manpower. It launched early this year MyPath, its own social network built around career development and skills. It's working on how to evolve that and tap more into other social networks. It plans prototype and pilot apps related to that effort, and that type of work is targeted to run on cloud-based, pay-as-you-go infrastructure, if the projects pass data governance rules.
"We're trying to figure out what's the next wave of [social networking]. It's not one we would want to take a whole lot of time to invest and do a big project, because it's going to change," Edwards says. "The iterations are going to start getting much tighter."
It's notable that Edwards sees a big advantage of cloud infrastructure in the launch of IT projects--and much less so in the ongoing, large-scale running of those apps.
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