Cloud: Old habits die hard – 3 things IT needs to kick

Stuart Hasking, Cloud Architect at DXC ServiceNow, looks at three habits IT departments need to kick to ensure an effective digital transformation

The IT department as we know it has existed for around 50 years in one form or another. Over these decades, its functions and how it is perceived have changed – from a simple ‘turn it on and off again’ helpline, to being the very cornerstone of digital transformation.

Whatever the future lies for the IT department, it’s had more than enough time in the last half-century to pick up some bad habits that have persisted. Even cloud computing, which has been part of the modern enterprise for under 20 years (a relative youngster), suffers as a result of these bad habits. As such, here we highlight three bad habits IT needs to kick to keep things running smoothly in the era of cloud services.

You are not that special

This can be hard for organisations to hear, but the truth is that in most cases they are not special, and do not need the bespoke solutions that believe they do. In many cases, this stems from the fact that only a few decades ago, if organisations needed a new application or system, there was little choice other than to create a bespoke solution that met the organisation’s requirements. Today, there are a plethora of off-the-shelf solutions that can help achieve almost any task imaginable – this is especially true when it comes to cloud services. 

It’s time to trust cloud suppliers

The temptation to customise cloud services is usually high, but standard workflows developed by providers such as AWS or Azure exist because they work very well in the majority of cases. What’s more, with large, dedicated, expert teams developing cloud solutions at these suppliers, businesses will often find they have better reliability – simply because bugs are found and dealt with much faster, and updates are frequently issued – meaning less down-time and happier staff.

It is now time to trust cloud suppliers and move away from building various bespoke parts, which are hard to manage, govern and upgrade.

“The temptation to customise cloud services is usually high, but standard workflows developed by providers such as AWS or Azure exist because they work very well in the majority of cases.

Landscaping the walled garden

Another habit that IT teams have developed is the need to lock down user access to apps and cloud services. In many cases this is undertaken with good intentions, after all in the past IT would have determined exactly what apps and services users could use due to complex licences and costs. However, today, in the age of BYOA (‘bring your own app’), we have apps on our phones, tablets and computers, and expectations of how we use our devices have completely changed. If anything, we now expect to be able to customise a work environment and the software and services that are used to complete tasks. This means that the walled garden of yesteryear can cause frustration and annoyance for employees, and in worst-case scenarios lead to an increase in shadow IT.

“Instead of trying to control users, IT teams should be looking to build comprehensive, easy to use service catalogues that give access to all the approved applications and cloud services that employees might need.”

Instead of trying to control users, IT teams should be looking to build comprehensive, easy to use service catalogues that give access to all the approved applications and cloud services that employees might need. This catalogue should be regularly updated and should invite users’ feedback and suggestions. This means that IT can ensure only authorised apps and services are used, but without taking away choice from the user. This will decrease the likelihood of shadow IT making its way into the organisation and reduce unexpected costs that might be hidden in expenses.

Digital isn’t just about IT

The last of our three old habits is for IT to think about its influence outside of the IT department. When it comes to service management particularly, IT needs to start opening up its technologies, expertise and services to the wider organisation. Whether it’s finance, facilities or HR, service management technologies which have underpinned IT helpdesks and service delivery can be used across an organisation to tighten up processes, save time and keep employees happy.

Service management technologies which have underpinned IT helpdesks and service delivery can be used across an organisation to tighten up processes, save time and keep employees happy.

This includes using the same platform IT uses to power its helpdesk to automate HR requests or facilities repairs, for example. After all, we contact IT when we want something fixed or we want something new, the workflow for these requests is very similar to reporting broken aircon, or requesting a holiday booking. To achieve this, IT will need to lead the way and actively demonstrate how its service management expertise can benefit the entire organisation. This is something of a cultural shift, but it is one that goes hand in hand with digital transformation.

IT departments have done a lot in recent years to modernise and drive change in enterprises. As the team most responsible for digital transformation, it hasn’t necessarily been easy to manage the rise of cloud and on-demand services. IT should continue to be on the lookout for improvements and areas where they can further develop the systems and processes that govern modern enterprises.

Breaking some bad habits can go a long way in keeping things running smoothly for the next 50 years.

Stuart Hasking

Stuart has over 40 years of IT experience and has spent the majority of his career in Investment Banking, covering a wide range of technical support, engineering, innovation, strategy and architecture roles.

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