Cloud anarchy in the UK: Here’s how to beat it

In this guest post, Allan Brearley, cloud practice lead at IT services consultancy ECS and Tesco Bank’s former head of transformation shares his thoughts on what enterprises can do to address the anarchy in their cloud deployments

Just over 40 years ago the Sex Pistols released their first single, Anarchy in the UK. Today we are experiencing anarchy of a different kind in some of the UK’s largest businesses.

Putting production workloads into the cloud has, on the face of it, never seemed so easy. The accessibility and ease of consumption of cloud-based services has unleashed a rush to the cloud by many large enterprises looking to take on their nimbler ‘born in the cloud’ competitors.

But there is growing evidence that many enterprises are struggling with cloud anarchy because they are not fully in control of their journey off-premise. And, without a comprehensive roadmap in place for enterprise-wide cloud adoption, cloud chaos ensues.

Shadow IT-induced anarchy

In a cloud equivalent of the Wild West, shadow IT is a major cause of cloud anarchy facing enterprises today.

It’s not unusual for employees to become frustrated by the IT department’s seemingly slow progress and subscribe to a  SaaS offering themselves without considering the impact this decision will have on the rest of the business.

Other problems arise when boards rush to embrace cloud without having defined a comprehensive vision and strategy that takes into account existing business processes, employees’ skills, company culture, and legacy IT infrastructure.

While a cloud-first approach might get off to a cracking start, without that clear company-wide vision and strategy, it is destined to lose momentum fast.

The chaotic environments resulting from these ad-hoc approaches have far-reaching consequences for an organisation’s corporate governance, purchasing, and IT service integration processes.

Good cloud governance

Where governance is concerned, it is unlikely there will be full visibility of what cloud services are being consumed where, and whether appropriate controls and standards are being met.

This problem is exaggerated in highly-regulated industries, such as financial services, where organisations are required to demonstrate they are: mitigating risk, managing IT security appropriately, managing audits and suppliers effectively, and putting appropriate controls in place to ensure compliance with regulations around data sovereignty and privacy such as the EU GDPR.

Financial services firms also need to demonstrate they are managing material outsource risks effectively, in order to comply with FCA regulations.

The uncontrolled purchase and use of SaaS or PaaS services without the appropriate level of IT engagement will also throw up a whole raft of integration, visibility and support headaches.

‘Technology snowflakes’ are another cause for concern. These occur when the same problem is being solved in different ways by different teams, which leads to IT support inefficiencies and additional costs.

Enterprises need to factor in some of the other financial implications of cloud anarchy too. These include a fragmented procurement process that make it difficult to cut the best deal, as well as questions over how teams consuming their own cloud services manage their budgets in the context of consumption-based services.

Embracing a cloud-shaped future

With a clear cloud strategy underpinned by appropriate controls, everyone will have the tools they need to innovate faster. The final piece in the puzzle is to ensure employees are fully engaged, and have the skills required to take advantage of this new approach and tools.

This requires building a company culture that embraces the cloud in a structured way, and promptly plugging any skills gaps in your employees’ knowledge.

With the Sex Pistols’ anthem still ringing in my ears, it occurs to me that Johnny Rotten was half right when he screamed the immortal lines: “Don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it”.

With cloud adoption, it’s important that everyone within the business pogos to the same tune – and that there is agreement up front on what is required.

Without a strong cloud vision and strategy, it’s impossible to know where you’re heading, how you’re going to get there, and when you’ve arrived.

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