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Rethinking a stale IT governance model for the cloud era

IT governance frameworks are known for holding innovation back, but a new model embraces innovation. Here's how it changes enterprise computing.

The rise of cloud computing is a perfect opportunity to rethink your IT governance model in a fundamental way.

Read the first part of this column for a discussion of how to reshape IT governance to add value, rather than hold a business back.

Many enterprises place prohibitions on the use of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google and other cloud services, despite the overwhelming evidence that these platforms enable innovation infinitely more than most of internal IT, and are every bit as secure as current systems -- often, more secure.

Rather than the five guiding principles of the COBIT framework that encourage these prohibitions, IT governance should have only one: Exceed stakeholder expectations for agility, innovation, quality and efficiency to drive business value creation.

How is that done while ensuring the proper allocation of capital, the right level of risk management, and while sticking to the service-level agreements demanded by the business? By throwing away convention and being bold; by inspiring your team to let go of preconceptions and fears so they will follow you; by removing people in your team that aren't capable of adapting to this new role of IT.

Imagine if you took your budget for the upcoming two years and reallocated all investments into one goal. Put some things on hold, retreat on others that are incremental and uninspiring, and kill every planned investment in IT capacity that fits into the old model. There's a choice to be made between a new $50 million data center or making use of the tens of billions that Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, IBM, HP and many others have invested in theirs.

Now that you're focused on this goal, use the IT investments to build a highway to the cloud, investing in automation, DevOps, Agile programming and Continuous Deployment. Instead of telling your users not to use AWS, encourage them and provide the tools and systems they need to gain access and deploy.

Does IT have to sacrifice control? Not really, but the controlling mechanisms will move behind the scenes. Ensure governance and control via cloud management platforms such as ServiceMesh or Dell's Enstratius, operations and performance management tools such as Stackdriver or New Relic, and operations management integration and management platforms like Intigua. Add in Opscode Chef, SaltStack or other DevOps environments. Invest in CI/CD environments such as Jenkins or uDeploy and run your Agile development environment around Git, JIRA and Confluence.

You can achieve the necessary audits, certifications and regulatory compliance with cloud-based systems. Many cloud platforms are now equipped to handle the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, Sarbanes-Oxley, the Federal Information Security Management Act, Federal Information Processing Standards and other regulations. Build new processes driven by automation to ensure that all the data you need is logged, authenticated and ready for the auditors before they arrive.

Remember that as you implement these changes, there is one driving principle: exceeding the needs of the business and enabling value generation without restrictions.

Once everything is in place for cloud computing, move as many of your existing systems as possible into the new environment and decommission the old. It's expensive, time-consuming and challenging to make this change, but you don't want to run the old stuff more than necessary and eat up your resources.

Use this new IT governance directive in your recruiting efforts for new talent. Tell them you operate like a Web company and not a traditional enterprise, that developers and operations teams are integrated and are at least twice as productive as they were previously, and that building systems in the cloud is expected and is not a bad thing.

Fun and profit

Isn't it a lot more fun to work in an environment where "Yes" is heard more often than "No"? Your teams will also enjoy using the tools that innovative companies like Netflix or Facebook deploy -- a lot more than using what enterprise teams use today. The freedom and flexibility lets your team stand up environments in minutes, all ready to go, so you can innovate and stop filling out resource requests -- which are not fun.

With the outdated IT governance-driven barriers removed, and a new focus on enabling strategic growth through innovation and agility, the IT department can help drive profitability. They can show that elastic applications running in a usage-metered cloud are cheaper than over-provisioned static applications running at 5% average utilization in the on-premises data center. The business can also profit from newfound automation, which lowers the total cost of ownership for data center services and reduces labor costs.

The new IT governance paradigm must be cloud-driven, innovation-enabling and based on one core principal: Exceed stakeholder expectations for agility, innovation, quality and efficiency to drive business value creation.

About the author:

John Treadway is a senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners and is based in Boston.
Twitter: @johntreadway

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