The Cloud has become a hot topic in business. What is The Cloud you ask? It has its origins, I think, in the network diagrams that techies have drawn for years. You know, that weird diagram that often gets drawn on a whiteboard that depicts some computers and a server, connected to a cloud or bunch of clouds. I think that is techie talk for magic… or… trust me, there is some cool stuff in there. So what is The Cloud and how will it impact Project Management in the future?
Believe it or not, The Cloud has been around for years. For some reason though, probably savvy marketing by IT giants like Oracle, IBM, Apple, Microsoft and Google, it has recently become sexy. The Cloud is basically IT-as-a-Service, or ITaaS (Really…. I’m not making this up!). Here is a video produced by Salesforce.com that does a pretty good job of explaining it.
IT-as-a-Service? Well, hasn’t it always been a service? I suppose it is a new paradigm, or way of thinking about IT services. Or is it? For those of you over 40, you probably remember the old days when computers were first introduced. Remember the “dumb” terminal. Well, they weren’t really dumb, but that’s what they were called because they didn’t do anything, except connect to a mainframe computer that did all the work. Then, a little company called Microsoft came along and convinced everyone that it would be better if all of these functions were done on the desk top. So, IT moved to building individual applications that would run on desktops and the industry moved forward.
After 25 years of innovation, the IT industry is advocating a move forward to The Cloud… or is it backward to the dumb terminal? Well, it is a little of both. The recommendation to move to The Cloud is based on well documented challenges that IT has faced over the years. All large organizations invested billions of dollars in computers and applications that resided on the users computer. They also bought servers, and used in house programmers to develop customized applications for their business. Over time, management began to question the cost effectiveness of this model. IT didn’t do itself any favors, when they began to lose focus on why they were there in the first place. I have been on too many projects where IT policies and procedures prevented the business from giving its users or customers what they needed. IT should never be the focus of the business. Business should be. Hence the move to ITaaS.
Due to advances in technology over the past 25 years, there is a lot of credence to the argument that IT can be outsourced to another organization, saving the business a lot of money and headaches. However, there are drawbacks. There a a few things that an organization will have to give up to move to The Cloud.
The basic loss will be control. The organization that moves to The Cloud (outsources IT) will now be dependent upon its provider to keep all of the infrastructure and applications updated. I have already experienced what happens when an organization faces a vendor/service provider that doesn’t know what it is doing. You are at the mercy of your vendor. Choose carefully.
For The Cloud to deliver its promises, you will have to give up a degree of customization. Yes, applications are more flexible, but they can’t do everything, for everybody. You may have to change your business processes to conform to the limitations of the application you are moving towards. To be honest, this may not be such a bad thing. I have been on projects where thousands, even millions, were spent on building customized applications, just because the business didn’t want to change. This was especially true in government organizations where bureaucratic processes were almost impossible to change due to entrenched thinking and an unwillingness to change, even though it would have been a relatively simple thing to do, saving the organization a lot of money.
The Cloud – Another Perspective
There is another way to define The Cloud. The Cloud can also be defined as the ever increasing amount of information made available to almost anyone at an affordable cost. The growing importance of The Cloud is based on increased networking speeds, the growing number of mobile applications, and the centralization of data. This, more than anything, will change the way IT services are delivered and the way business is performed.
Consumers (including businesses) now have new ways of communicating. A new way of living. The amount of applications are endless and too numerous to even begin to list. Go to Google’s page on The Cloud and you will see a different perspective on how it will change the way we work and live.
The question becomes, how will this impact how we do business? For this article, specifically, how will it impact the way we do projects? The answer comes it two parts. First, the types of IT projects that businesses will work on is changing. A move to The Cloud requires businesses to rethink how they do business.
- More focus will be spent on requirements and how these decentralized applications can meet the business needs of an organization. This will require business process re-engineering.
- Additional time will be spent by the project manager in building relationships with vendors such as Salesforce.com, Google and IBM.
- Projects will move away from application development to business integration.
Secondly, project management will become more decentralized. The amount of information available, and the speed by which users gain access to it is increasing. If organizations don’t change the way their Project Management Offices (PMOs) are run, they will fall behind in the business world. Speed and efficiency are two cornerstones in being successful in a fast changing marketplace. Those organizations that understand how to leverage these new technologies (mobile applications, portable devices, The Cloud) in how they do business, will be the ones to rise to the top of the marketplace.
If you are a project manager over 40, this has pretty big implications for you. You must stay relevant with technology. You will have to break down and learn new applications both on the PC and on mobile devices. You will be expected to know how to text, download applications on your smart phone and be familiar with communicating using traditional methods, email, and yes… text messages.
Make no mistake about it, The Cloud, however you want to define it, is going to change the way we do business.
All the best!
All the time!