The Big Takeaway at EMC's 2011 IT Leadership Council was a simple dose of reality: When you set out to transform IT in the cloud computing era, technology—tough as it may be—is low-hanging fruit. The hard part is people and organization, and the business depends on it.
The IT Leadership Council was a first for EMC, the highest-level gathering of customers the company has ever assembled to discuss and consult not on products and technology as such, but—as EMC's Chuck Hollis put it in a recent Chuck's Blog post—on "the single most difficult challenge in IT today: how do you transform an IT organization to be more strategically relevant to the business it serves?"
The Leadership Council brought EMC customers together with EMC IT and other executives to trade views on managing IT change, moving toward IT as a service, and mustering support from the business as we all journey to the cloud. EMC dug into its own IT transformation to the cloud, and our customers told us what was working for them, what wasn't, and why winning in the cloud is more about teamwork than anything else. And how they're having conversations they've never had before about unfamiliar topics like competition and marketing.
What did we learn from our customers? One practical fact with far-reaching implications: A company that tries to launch into the cloud is at a disadvantage if it neglects to build organization, process, and people into the plan.
Here's what our customers told us about their experience diving into IT transformation:
IT transformation isn't about technology. The real barriers to reinventing IT arise in the area of new operational and organizational models and processes, evolving roles and skills, and new financial models. Heard repeatedly: "My technology is ready. My people are not."
IT must support business agility. IT and infrastructure agility, yes. But more important is providing business agility – the ability to help lines of business be more productive, profitable, and competitive.
IT must compete for business. Users are turning to external service and cloud providers for price or convenience. Fighting such "shadow IT" behavior, internal IT often must actually "win the business" from its own internal customers.
IT must drop the "hero" culture. In those thrilling days of yesteryear, IT heroes could parachute into a problem and solve it at any time of the day or night. But this SWAT culture must give way to a new guard of IT generalists and increasing standardization, automation and shared infrastructure.
IT must learn marketing. As IT becomes an internal service provider that competes for business, it must act like a business unit—and that means embracing marketing, both actively reaching out to business units to create demand, and working with customers to identify future product/service needs.
Financial transparency is more important than ever: To compete, forecast, and model, IT has to know its per-unit costs, whether charging back to business units or not. Success with IT as a Service means mastering capital, operational, and incremental costs to enable better buy-versus-build decisions, and help the rest of the enterprise make similar decisions about how/where to apply infrastructure.