3 Cloud-Related Tasks CIOs Should Complete Before the Next Board Meeting

The push to cloud computing is coming from the boardroom. We explore how CIOs can be prepared for their next grilling before the board of directors.

By David Linthicum

It may come as a surprise to some people that the boards of directors drive much of the interest around cloud computing, more so than CIOs and CEOs. Why? Money.

Cloud computing has the potential to finally shrink IT budgets while revenue and profits increase. Those who hold the most company stock are pushing for these efficiencies. Of course, board members don't know IaaS from SaaS, but with the amount of press that cloud computing gets, they know somebody should be looking at it, and that's typically the CIO.

How should CIOs prepare for these meetings? Here are three tasks they should complete before they step into the boardroom.

Task #1: Have a cloud computing analysis program underway

Form an ad hoc group to look at the benefits cloud computing could have for the business. The potential strategic advantage of this technology means this is just a wise investment at this point. At the very least, you'll have the answer to a question that will be asked. It's best to be proactive. I've seen people removed for not exploring opportunities with new technology.

The objectives of this group should be to determine the current state of IT, including what's working and what's not. The group should also explore the state of the emerging cloud computing technology, including an honest assessment of cost, performance, and legal tradeoffs. Finally, in priority order, the team should determine where cloud computing could potentially bring the greatest cost efficiencies to the enterprise. Examples include replacing the old CRM system for one that's cloud-delivered or consolidating storage by leveraging an IaaS player.

Task #2: Prepare an overview of compliance issues

Many CIOs have a tendency to over- or under-state the legal and compliance issues surrounding use of cloud computing. For the most part, those in IT don't bother to learn the issues involved in the use of remote systems for housing data, processes, and applications, though these issues are not new with cloud computing.

Learn what the laws are so you'll know the risks. Be prepared to provide an accurate assessment to the business leaders so they can provide the appropriate governance.

Task #3: Have a plan for changing your human resources

Many IT shops are ready and willing to adopt new technologies, including cloud computing, but some have to change their people first. Prepare a plan for changing human resources along with the technology. This can run from a simple reorg to retraining or massive outplacement, depending upon your situation.

Although this may seem a bit draconian, the humans are the ones who make cloud computing succeed or fail. Many cloud migrations have hit a wall, not due to the technology but because many in IT are passive aggressive and make cloud projects die the death of a thousand cuts -- or they are just not that bright and can't keep up with the changes in technology. Either problem will kill the business.

David S. Linthicum is the founder and the CTO of Blue Mountain Labs and an internationally recognized industry expert and thought leader. He is the author or co-author of 13 books on computing, including Enterprise Application Integration (Addison Wesley). You can contact the author at david@bluemountainlabs.com.