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CIOs share lessons learned from the journey to the cloud

Thor Olavsrud | March 2, 2015
Shifting your organization's services and infrastructure to the cloud can bring unexpected perils. These are lessons learned from CIOs who have successfully navigated the journey.

Christian Anschuetz, senior vice president, Global CIO and head of the Enterprise Transformation Office at UL, set out to change that, beginning with the replacement of its aging telephony system with a voice over IP (VoIP) solution, upgraded computers for all employees, a complete restructuring of its Active Directory service and the adoption of Office 365 cloud-based communication and collaboration services.

"We've been in the cloud now on Office 365 since its inception and have been very, very satisfied," Anschuetz says. "Our ventures into cloud platforms have been very successful. They are different and they are difficult in some ways -- different than organizations might be used to from traditional on-prem installations."

For one thing, Anschuetz says, forget about customization.

"There's nothing more standard than a cloud-based product," he says. "You can configure, but customization you do at your peril."

And, like Patti, Anschuetz says that change management was a surprisingly important part of the transition, though at UL it was more about end users than the IT staff.

"Getting the uptake of this richer and deeper and much more immersive and personal way to communicate, we thought it would be more natural," he says. "In actuality, we had to spend a lot of time doing internal marketing."

Today, as the company prepares to adopt Microsoft Dynamics in the cloud, Anschuetz notes that his organization has learned to be much more deliberate in how it architects processes in accordance with what the selected technology can do.

"What we know now is that we really have to have a thorough organizational readiness," he adds. "If the organization's not ready, if it doesn't have the right culture, the right leadership, then we probably shouldn't implement it. One of the key things we're doing is making sure the organization is ready for it."

The other key learning Anschuetz has gained from UL's experience with the cloud is this: Organizations are often attracted to the cloud for projects because they perceive the demand as highly variable, and if that's the case it needs to be reflected in your contract with your cloud provider.

"When it comes down to the cloud, we need to have a really frank understanding of what the cloud is really like," he says. "Is the cloud cheaper? No, the cloud is not cheaper. If you look at the TCO, it may be more expensive. Is it more open? No. Cloud systems are generally more proprietary. Is it easier to integrate? The answer is no. What it is, is it's faster to provision and it's perceived to be more variable in terms of the cost profile. Organizations often consider things variable when in fact they're fixed. When you're negotiating your cloud contract, if you think you need that variability, make sure that's very, very clear in your licensing agreement. Make sure the variability of your business is supported by your underpinning contract."

 

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