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Roundtable: Innovation in the Cloud (Toronto)

The IT Media Group’s recent roundtable, “Innovation in the Cloud”,   brought together 13 IT executives from a variety of Toronto area private and public-sector organizations to discuss challenges and approaches related to Cloud. Sponsor for this CIO Master Series roundtable was Hitachi Data Systems Canada, represented at the table by CTO, Paul Lewis.

When it comes to innovation, the participating CIOs saw Cloud primarily as an enabler, allowing them to try out new things relatively cheaply and without a big commitment of time and resources. At this point, they are not looking at Cloud as a strong force for innovation in and of itself.

There was a wide range of Cloud-related organizational maturity represented at the table, and though all organizations were invested in Cloud to one degree or another, many were at a relatively early stage of adoption and still struggling with a variety of issues. Consequently, most attendees are still trying to get their head around more basic Cloud issues: educating the business around Cloud, internal and external support, privacy and security, and governance, to name but a few.

Other topics getting an airing included: business units setting up Cloud services on their own, creating rogue data; public vs. private vs. hybrid Cloud; the need for Cloud solutions and SLAs that are more tailored to specific industries; the lack of flexibility in contracts; the need for top-down support within the organization; and how to withdraw from Cloud agreements.

Paul Lewis pointed to one issue that he said CIOs should pay particular attention to. “Economic transparency is incredibly important,” he asserted. “Business executives tend to look at IT as a box of money. There’s $50 million IT spend. They don’t really know what they get out of it… And one of the reasons why they go to an alternative provider, like a SaaS provider, is because it’s much more granular in terms of how much it’s going to cost. They know it’s $50 per person, per month for this thing, and they don’t have that level of granularity in the IT group.”

Lewis said the IT group needs to become far more transparent in terms of the workload they produce. “For this application that prints cheques, you should be able to know that it’s $50 per person. And this SaaS offering, if you look at the transparent economics, is actually $70, because of the effort to integrate, to backup, and to make sure that it adheres to SLAs that the clients require. I think that’s fundamentally what’s missing in most of the conversations.”

Another issue that garnered plenty of attention was the demands Cloud is placing on internal resources, especially legal. As one CIO put it, “In our latest Cloud project, a lot of our resources shifted away from IT… Out of the ten months it took to do the project, IT probably spent two months doing it, and the other eight months was all legal work.

Added another, “The legal side of things is a big frustration. Nine times out of ten we’re told that what’s being presented is great, don’t worry about it. And then you get into the terms… Now I ask for the terms and conditions right off the bat, before we even begin the discussion, because we find things. We had a great opportunity to work with companies where, down in the bowels of the agreement, they’re going to retain all the right to do this and that. And we just said, ‘We’re out. We can’t do that.’”

One of the most experienced Cloud users at the table noted that in his company, individuals from the legal department are assigned to the technology team. “If you try to do it yourselves, you’ll spend all of your time on legal and security – and we’re not experts on these things. So our legal team has morphed itself from being contractual people to being advisors, telling us: if you do this, this is what you’re going to deal with. And then they work with us to make sure that the contracts are proper in the context of doing what we need to have done for our organization and/or our customers.”

In organizations where there is no mandate from senior management to do this, he said that it is the IT leader’s responsibility to make it happen. “I would go directly to my legal team, directly to my security team, and help them understand the challenges we’re facing and see if there’s any way they can help us,” he said. “Whether or not you have somebody dedicated to you all the time to do it is something that you need to discuss.”

Session Highlights Videos

Economic Transparency

IT organizations typically can't identifying per-person or per-transaction costs from the bucket that represents IT investment. Consequently, it's impossible to properly assess cloud solutions against in-house solutions.


Legal support for Cloud

It's easy to underestimate the time, effort and legal expertise required to establish contractual terms and conditions for Cloud-based options.


Using Cloud to leverage innovation

Cloud enables low-cost experimentation that can quickly get you to "go or no go".


Issues for the IT organization

IT may have to deal with Cloud initiatives after they have been implemented by a business unit. And while Cloud may reduce or eliminate much of the technical effort required to implement a solution, IT may find its resources shifted to dealing with significant SLA and contract issues.


Post session interviews

Mike Cuddy, VP, IT and CIO at Toromont Industries - Cloud benefits & challenges


Paul Lewis, CTO, Hitachi Canada


Paul Lewis - Economic Transparency


About CIO Master Series roundtables

Roundtables produced by The IT Media Group provide the ideal format for frank and open discussion among IT executive peers, allowing them to explore issues in depth, with a judicious amount of expert facilitation. These sessions are designed specifically for small groups of IT leaders, enabling them to take away practicable new approaches, validate their own thoughts, brainstorm ideas, and share their successes and their pain.

IT executives interested receiving notification of upcoming CIO Master Series roundtables, please complete the VIP membership form, including business email address.