SNAFU, FUBAR, CF...if you have been in IT longer than five minutes you have been involved in a project that has been described as a real cluster. (If you are confused, look it up in the Urban Dictionary).
In fact, these words are used so often to describe IT projects, when the speaker said, “You know, there are two types of IT projects: AC and CF”, the room of IT executives exploded in laughter, many of them shaking their heads and shuddering as if having flashbacks of projects past, present and future!
“No, no, no, I’m not talking about THAT kind of CF project. It’s a grading scale. There are some projects that you do, that no matter how well you execute them, no matter if you hit the ball out of the park, the best grade you will ever receive is a ‘C’. No one is EVER going to walk into your office, shake your hand and say ‘Thank you for delivering my email today’. No one...EVER. On the other hand, if the project goes poorly, you will most certainly receive an ‘F’ (and you WILL be in a ‘cluster’ of a situation!). Conversely, there are some projects that when executed properly you will receive rave reviews and most certainly earn an ‘A’. When THOSE projects miss the mark a bit, you can earn a ‘B’ or a ‘C’.”
As the panel continued its discussion on stage, their words faded into the background as I thought about what I had just heard. He was RIGHT! I started thinking about all the projects on our plate. I would categorize most of them as ‘CF’ projects. The speaker had even called out the biggest project facing us at the moment...email! We were faced with another massive upgrade of our email system. It would take months and tens of thousands of dollars...and in the end? We would STILL be delivering email. It was one of those “epiphany moments”! Why on earth would we ever want to go down that road again, and again, and again. I’d like to say it was a Cecil B. DeMille moment and the heavens parted, the sun shone down, a rainbow formed, and a booming voice said, “Cloud!”, but honestly, it was more like a quiet whisper inside my head. “Cloud...move the CF work to the cloud”.
Before we even returned from the conference, we evaluated all of our projects and assigned them to one of three categories: maintain (CF projects), grow (BC projects) and innovate (AB projects). For every project in the maintain category, we began to seek out cloud-based solutions. The projects in the other two categories would take more time, but eventually, we took a cloud first approach to those project as well.
Slowly at first, and then faster and faster we were able to divert more of our resources (human and financial) to growth and innovation. To me that is the true promise of cloud: moving the needle from 80% maintenance to 70%, 60%...and beyond. Sure, it can save some money, but what it really does is make you more agile and more elastic. You can quickly focus your talent on business initiatives that are truly game changers, not just another hardware or software upgrade.
So, this journey - our journey - started with email. We immediately changed course on the project and began to evaluate the two heavyweights in cloud-based email. A few short months later, we were “in the cloud”. We retired four servers and tons of storage. The benefits were immediate.
There are risks with this approach. The number one question I get asked about our journey is “what was the impact on your staff?”, very quickly followed by, “how did you prepare them?”. Admittedly, it is a significant change. When we moved our email to the cloud, our senior engineer resigned. He had always seen himself as an “Exchange guy” and couldn’t see himself in the new reality. As we continued to explore cloud options, I was very nervous others would follow suit. However, as we continued to discuss the rewards of moving in the direction of the cloud, less of the mundane, more exploration of new ideas and concepts (bright shiny objects notwithstanding, exploration of new ideas ALWAYS motivates IT pros!), as we started to SEE the rewards, the team got behind the vision and expanded the vision. In all honesty, they prepared themselves. Sure, I would share articles, thoughts, and ideas about the future, but they took it from there.
Together, we began to map out our journey, our journey into the unknown.
Next month: Amplify Your Value: Draw Your Own Maps
The series, “Amplify Your Value” explores our five year plan to move from an ad hoc reactionary IT department to a Value-add revenue generating partner. #AmplifyYourValue
We could not have made this journey without the support of several partners, including, but not limited to: Bluelock, Level 3 (TWTelecom), Lifeline Data Centers, Netfor, and CDW. (mentions of partner companies should be considered my personal endorsement based on our experience and on our projects and should NOT be considered an endorsement by my company or its affiliates).
Jeffrey Ton is the SVP of Corporate Connectivity and Chief Information Officer for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, providing vision and leadership in the continued development and implementation of the enterprise-wide information technology and marketing portfolios, including applications, information & data management, infrastructure, security and telecommunications.
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