What kinds of cloud services will dominate?

By Allan Alter & Jeanne Harris Print this article Print

Don’t take for granted that the future will be flat, connected and technology-friendly. Don’t assume tomorrow’s business and IT environment will be a continuation of today’s. Instead, use these 10 questions to explore what the future might require from your IT department.


6: What kinds of cloud services will dominate? Some futures are friendly or hostile to cloud services. A flat, connected, unregulated world favors public cloud computing and services. There’s nothing to stop companies from using global cloud services anywhere there is high-speed broadband.

However, companies may be forced to use private clouds or local services if tight data regulations, protectionist economic policies or the establishment of national Internets interfere with using global cloud services. And while large cloud companies can afford to invest in state-of-the-art security and reliability, that won’t matter if their customers can’t safely transmit their data to a public cloud.                                                                        

7: How urgently must we accommodate consumer technologies? Consumer IT is where lifestyle, business and innovation intersect, and that makes it an unpredictable phenomenon for IT departments. It’s hard to visualize what social networks and smartphones will be able to do in five years—and even harder to anticipate what new applications employees will want to use.

Nevertheless, IT planners can think about whether demand for consumer IT will require organizations to accommodate employees and experiment with new trends. Cost, broadband and mobile network access, the pace of innovation, access to consumer applications and data from other countries, censorship, and confidence in IT security will all affect the supply and demand for consumer IT in the workplace and the market.

8: Which IT skills will we needto succeed, and where will we need them? Ask this question after answering the others. Start by dividing IT activities into leading, managing, designing, building, analyzing and operating. Then ask what needs to be done, and which skills will be needed where.

For example, what needs to be managed? Service providers? Infrastructure? Where are they managed: globally or locally? Take the design side of IT: What skills will architects and network engineers need to design a cloud-server hybrid or to migrate to a proprietary network? What kinds of backgrounds best prepare a leader for fostering innovation: leading a centralized or decentralized environment, or managing a security crisis?

9: Where willIT talent come from? Today, businesses assume they can tap into a pool of IT professionals in low-cost locations or easily move IT employees across borders. But what if globalization unravels, new regulations prevent you from tapping foreign talent pools or long-distance collaboration becomes difficult? What if businesses can’t find local workers when required for security or cultural reasons?

If companies aren’t permitted to import IT talent or use offshore services, they will need to invest more in training at home or in relocating workers. More companies will have to work with universities to produce job-ready graduates.

10: How will our spending priorities change? At the end, step back and confirm what each future means for your budget. In each future you are exploring, where will you need to invest to achieve business goals, meet operational needs or legal requirements? Will it be in infrastructure, applications, services orthe workforce? Or, in some combination of these?

Also, where can you reduce spending, either because lower-cost options are available or because the need has declined? In some futures, reducing IT expenses—or giving employees and managers direct control of IT-related spending—will become an important priority in its own right.

Don’t take for granted that the future will be flat, connected and technology-friendly. Don’t assume tomorrow’s business and IT environment will be a continuation of today’s. The world often changes in unpredictable and unlikely ways, and it’s not just technology that changes. Planning your future IT organization on a single future, without considering others, is a dangerous move.

Allan E. Alter is a Boston-based research fellow at the Accenture Institute for High Performance.Jeanne G. Harris is a Chicago-based senior executive research fellow at the Accenture Institute for High Performance and the co-author of Competing on Analytics and Analytics at Work.  

This article was originally published on 2012-07-17
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