I have recently been asked by a President of a non-profit company about “The Cloud”. He wanted to know what was the big deal about the “The Cloud”, and what is could mean to his company in terms of driving down costs, yet increasing opportunities for raising donations, and increasing productivity…His cloud questions came at me rapid fire….
“What is it really?”
“How does it work?”
“Is it secure?”
“How do we begin to look at the cloud?”
“What is this private versus public cloud?”
“How can the cloud help our company?”
“Is this cloud thing a fad?”
Ok, First I need to go to the Bathroom… 🙂
So as I recovered from his barrage of questions, I told him I would go to the men’s room first, and then come back to answer his questions. Not that the answers would be in the men’s room, but I wanted to think about how to answer his questions in such a manner, as to avoid “techno-speak”, and allow him to understand the business benefits of the cloud opportunities, while maximizing the technical efficiencies of his IT staff. As an IT Professional, I take it as my personal mission to discuss the exciting benefits of technology with people, and frankly was not prepared to have a consulting meeting at a holiday party. Also, as an Architect, dealing with IT people all the time, it is important for me to remember the real audience for these solutions we architect are business people. So it is critical for your IT folks to learn not to use “Tech-Speak” when explaining the cloud to business people. So I excused myself, went to the men’s room to gather my thoughts…..and yes I actually had to go to the bathroom Ha Ha!
Backwards is forwards…
So when I returned to the party, the President of this non-profit was eagerly waiting for my explanation. Instead of diving into an ROI, TCO, Cost and Revenue opportunity discussion, I asked him a single question regarding his company’s business objectives. “In a high level, tell me what you want to accomplish?” He looked at me and said, “You were going to tell me about The Cloud..” I replied, “I will but I need to know what you as a business are trying to accomplish. What are your objectives?” I have found when you are explaining “The Cloud” it is best to work backwards. Backwards???..Yes, Backwards. You have to work backwards, meaning set the vision, and then work backwards in detailing the options, possibilities, realities, to manage expectations and to provide a true architecture that can be executed upon. So he preceded to tell me about increasing donations in this poor economy, maximizing the company’s online presence to take advantage of Social Media, reducing operating and IT costs, and maybe increasing the productivity of his staff to accomplish more. He also said, he needed to increase his “donation-pool” of potential donors.
So after listening to his high level answers, I preceded to tell him about “The Cloud”, aligning each of his objectives to opportunities to move parts of his infrastructure, his donation application, his donor-management systems, and of course leveraging Social Media\Marketing to The Cloud. His eyes opened up wide when I told him the potential cost savings, productivity, and visibility his non-profit company could enjoy by leveraging the cloud. I also pointed out that parts of his business processes could move to The Cloud immediately with little up front investments, while other parts would require some funding to prepare for moving to The Cloud. Some of their internal applications would need complete re-writes, costs\time constraints that make these application poor candidates to move at this time.
So the point here is when discussing The Cloud; listen and speak in business terms, and when you IT Architects want to devise a plan for moving an existing business process to the cloud, remember: Work Backwards…by setting the final vision of the customer, and work backwards in seeing what parts of the business can go to the cloud, what components of the IT infrastructure and applications need investments to achieve that final vision. I think only this way can you demonstrate all the interdependencies that aggregate for a successful cloud transition.