Risk identification (and minimisation), budget management and innovation have become major intertwining issues driving each decision. It is no wonder then, that most CTOs see the cloud as presenting huge opportunities to tackle business and technological challenges in one go. From a technological perspective, they can do away with legacy infrastructure, obsolescence costs and high onboarding expenditure for their team. From there, they can use the cloud to enable new business models, and help staff adopt a more agile approach to working.
The question, however, is how to bring the rest of the c-suite and board along with you on this journey from cloud-sceptic to a cloud-native organisation. Building a cloud culture and understanding why the same benefits that appeal to the CTO aren’t always seen in the same light by other members of the team is crucial. This is especially true in larger enterprises, where decades of legacy systems and processes have become deeply ingrained within business culture. Even if all members of the team are aligned on the need for change, the CTO will still have multiple barriers to overcome to ensure a smooth transition to new technology.
Ultimately, the CTO cannot act alone. Bringing your enterprise into the cloud-era requires a culture shift. The CTO must be the one who drives this and actively champions the business to embrace the move to the cloud.
Manage risk, reputation and responsibilities carefully
A good place to start is the concept of risk. Where the CTO and CISO may see the cloud as a risk-minimiser and a tightly controlled environment for managing everything from data to applications, many of the senior team could see increased opportunity for data leaks, security risks and downtime. This in turn creates fear and resistance to change.
For those who aren’t at the coalface of technology or tech-savvy, new technology at work can often generate a range of emotions from annoyance at having to relearn new processes, embarrassment that they can’t get to grips with it, or fear that their jobs may be replaced. Generally, if the day-to-day tech seems to be working fine, there is little desire to change or enhance it. Business leaders are used to guiding and developing their business’ strategy and development from the top. For some leadership teams used to having control and oversight of culture, seeing this change being driven by a technology instead can be unnerving. There is an opportunity however for CTOs to empower each department’s top staff members to be leading their departments and adopting the cloud to bring the best solutions to the whole organisation.
The rapid rise of technology means that the CTO is no longer just seen as a business cost centre, but instead as something with the potential to generate increased revenue. One key ally for the CTO can be the CFO — to help them understand the difference in moving from a capex model to an opex one. The cloud and related services certainly make an attractive business case, with fewer sunk costs and investments into expensive hardware. However billing in the cloud space isn’t always as transparent as many CFOs might imagine, and re-structuring budgets and reporting will take time.
For CTOs, all of the above will often require a mindset shift and a change in responsibility. They have a new opportunity to take a positive and proactive role in the business model, finances and scale of operations.
Q&A: CTO tips on delivering cloud innovation to avoid disruption
Move from CTO to CPO
It’s easy to mistake the CTO for a purely technical role. The clue is in the title right? Well, not quite. Technology means more than just technical management. The role of the CTO, especially those operating in challenger business environments or in large enterprises rapidly rolling out new platforms and solutions, is often more akin to a chief product officer. CTOs must champion the user not the technology in order to drive a successful change to the cloud.
It’s also true for driving change within your business, user experience comes first. That covers not just the technology you put in place, but how you put it in place too. There will inevitably be friction when you roll out a new application across a business. However there are measures IT teams can take to minimise the impact and reduce the stress of moving to cloud or embracing new systems. The worst case is they only find out about it when they turn on their computers on Monday morning.
In a global business environment, there’s an expectation that you can replicate, launch and relaunch your business anywhere on the planet. The reality is often far from this. CTOs need to be actively aware of potential pitfalls in plans to operate around the world, and limitations of the cloud. This can range from data regulations preventing part of your app from working, barriers that stop your services operating at an acceptable speed, or regional technology skills gaps that mean your onboarding costs will be excruciatingly high.
If CTOs are aware of this at the outset, and how it might impact the user experience, they are better equipped to inform operations, legal, customer support and product development teams too. Driving change to the cloud requires CTOs to manage the expectations on behalf of all stakeholders about what is feasible in every market. You don’t want to paint a picture of limitless innovation and opportunity, only to fail at the final hurdle.
Invest the time now, to unlock huge potential later
There is another, future focussed benefit for CTOs looking to drive a culture change to the cloud. Many of the exciting possibilities of frontier technology require a well-integrated cloud foundation to be implemented in your organisation — you have to be a cloud native business to really take on the opportunities presented by AI, machine learning and data analysis.
For the wider business, that’s also where a lot of the benefits come in too — from predicting customer behaviour to harnessing self-coding AI to perform routine tasks more quickly. But you have to shepherd the organisation through those initial changes first. That’s the tricky part.
Drive change, or leave innovation on the wayside
The pace of business change enabled by the cloud is extraordinary. However, in order to harness the power of the cloud within the enterprise new ways of working which are increasingly being driven by the technology and development teams.
But much of the potential of the cloud remains untapped because business culture isn’t keeping up with technological change. Without a business decision to bridge this gap, we’ll end up stuck with opportunities for innovation and business growth left by the wayside.
It’s up the CTO to champion this cause within the business, and help cloud and business strategies point in the same direction.