Monthly Archives: May 2015

If cloud still only meant visible mass of condensed watery vapour……what a better place I.T would be.


Finding out who can claim the ‘rights’ to using the word – cloud – to describe the paradigm shift in computing that is upon us is not as easy as one would think. We all know Tim Berners-Lee gave us WWW, and that Martin Cooper is acclaimed to have invented the mobile phone, but who invented cloud?

Of course it doesn’t really matter anymore, though there is a lot of evidence out there behind why we came upon the words.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt once commented “What’s interesting [now] is that there is an emergent new model,” Schmidt said, “I don’t think people have really understood how big this opportunity really is. It starts with the premise that the data services and architecture should be on servers. We call it cloud computing—they should be in a “cloud” somewhere.”

Others talk about The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet. It’s a rebranding of the Internet say others.

Young people don’t even think about it – and probably don’t ever use the word either. Smart eh?

Companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Netcentric and IBM started to tout cloud-computing efforts as well. That was also when it first appeared in newspaper articles, such as a New York Times report from 2007, that carried the headline “I.B.M. to Push ‘Cloud Computing,’ Using Data From Afar.” It described vague plans for “Internet-based supercomputing.”

And so it went on and on and on. The bandwagon was rolling and there was no way to stop it.

But we don’t really care. After all each Era of technological advancement had a label or badge didn’t it?  Mainframe, Client/Server, Web,  etc. But cloud is the first era where we conveniently took all the layers of complexity we understand from the ‘tech perspective’,  and swept up into an every day word that is more at home describing the ‘visible mass of condensed watery vapour floating in the atmosphere.’

At least with Mainframe ( era one ) , client server ( era two ) web 1.0/2.0 ( era three ), virtualisation ( era four ) we had relatively neat and boxed off interpretations of what we meant. The man in the street did not ever need to utter these words, with the exception of the web, once the WWW and HTTP revolution made us realise we can access information to help our daily lives. Consumerisation was borne and cloud became defacto no longer about visible masses of condensed water.

But Cloud? Oh what confusion. And what danger too.

Leaving the man in the street interpretation of cloud alone because that is a minefield itself, the IT organisation must rue the day the word entered their lives. Why didn’t ‘we’ call it something else? After all the last big paradigm shift was virtualisation and that did what it said on the tin. Why couldn’t we have stuck with that and called the next wave of change something like TRANSFORMATION or AGILITY? After all the only reason an organisation needs and IT infrastructure is to support their everyday needs to ‘do business – make money/provide service’.

Its all a moot point now but you know we ( technology people )  would have so much better off. IT Directors were getting used to mapping their maturity within IT services to a level playing field of assessment, and they could align technology investments with their capability to deliver the ‘tech’. Knowing where they had gaps helped them identify partners, skills development and roadmaps reasonably accurately.

But cloud has turned all this on its head. What with the business now knowing that ‘they understand cloud’ and every by standing observer across the business demanding ‘cloud’ or else ( Shadow IT ), the IT Director is too often forced to consider ‘cloud’ without giving the decision the right level of due diligence and discovery. Its one thing knowing you have a problem but its a complete other thing knowing that technology can be the answer to the problem.

After all too many IT departments didn’t complete their virtualisation strategy, often creating a hybrid infrastructure that just about worked in delivering an IT service. Either because of lack of money to finish the job, or resource reallocation or lack of commitment to transform core IT services ( or excitement about ‘cloud’ coming next ) , the IT organisation unhelpfully put themselves in a position where ‘cloud’ has presented them even more challenges.

By not completing the virtualisation job but demonstrating true progress ( greener datacenters, smaller footprints of hardware, higher availability – thanks IBM/VMware (x86) ) , IT departments juggled their plans to cover over the cracks of not finishing the job. And why was that? Easy. Because they had shown they could ‘speed up IT’, the business came along knocking a lot more often with more and more requests, and the IT department found themselves ‘popular’ again.

But underneath their ‘proverbial’ legs were kicking like mad as they tried to stay about water.

And then ‘someone’ mentioned the Cloud word. Dam.

IT departments tried ( and are still trying ) to adopt to the new cloud era, as they adapted policies, skills and service management into the ever growing demand for speed.

And for some they are being successful’ with this juggling act yet for others however those legs under the water are seriously under stress and not coping at all.

I wonder therefore what would have happened If we had chosen a different word like transformation instead of cloud?  I personally think we would be in a better state because we would have not have had all the hype that cloud bought with I,t but hang on, nor would we have had the billions and billions of marketing $ which has without doubt created an industry beyond anyone’s dreams way back in the day.

You see cloud has introduced a myriad of nooks and crannies that the IT Department has to navigate. Of course its just a word, and whether we called it cloud or widget.these nooks and crannies would have always existed as Moore’s Law and other engineering waves would have driven change. However, I think too often that too much changed too quickly for the average IT department to cope.

As I reflect ( and I do often about cloud )  when I hear someone mention the words ‘we have a cloud strategy’ or ‘we are moving to the cloud’ , I wonder if we have sold short the conversation that usually follows. However, if you meet someone who has developed that skill of never using the word cloud then grab the moment and savour it.

You see what I think has happened or is happening is that some people have worked out that its not a Cloud conversation that we need. No far from it. What we need is something much deeper and more multi-dimensional.

How can you spot someone? Well it has been said that the real source of cloud were those ‘networking gurus’ who used to draw ‘a cloud’ to represent the networking outside the corporate firewall and a cloud was the easiest thing to draw. I tend to believe that as well.

So anyone who draws lots of clouds worry me, whereas anyone who can articulate the business change outcomes from deploying transformational technology make me feel all warm in side.

These people deserve to finish their drawing off with a flourish and a cloud picture 🙂

And you know what – I bet in the days of mainframe and web there were people who sold mainframes and webs ( that doesn’t work ) , and there were people who talked business change and transformation.

Nothing  is new is it?


Driving behavioural change with Post-It stickers and…… complete silence

Leadership is often not about what you say but  what you don’t say. post-it stickies A few events recently have allowed me to reflect on a true story which highlights that to lead change can be just as powerful when done in total silence.

My friend managed a disparate group of IT professionals spread across many countries and continents. The function of the team was basic IT services to an organisation that excelled in delivering high quality consulting services in very competitive markets. Whilst quality was important too often just doing the simple things right first time was all that was asked of the IT group.

Despite having relevant skills and tools available to the IT group my friend found himself too frequently on the back foot dealing with complaints at monthly board reviews from senior leaders who couldn’t fathom why basic IT ‘things’ were also breaking down and not being fixed. Particularly awkward was that the stakeholders were experienced hands on people who were able to drive business change to their clients in orders of magnitude and complexity, with therefore, zero tolerance for a ‘laptop broken’ or a ‘software error message’.

My friend had followed the standard influencing methods to drive his team’s behaviour to fix issues as they arise but within a culture of resolution and not just fix today break tomorrow. Email, conference calls, IMs and ‘relatively assertive’ 1-2-1s and yet despite some success the roller coaster of unhappy senior people continued.

And my friend really had a different role which was to influence business use of technology through creative service optimisation and consulting insight.

And then he had an idea.

He noticed in his home study a pack of Post-it pads and began writing down all those low lying annoying ‘broken IT’ things separating them by country and city.

And being sticky he ended up sticking them on his wall.

He then put a sticker saying COMPLETED over to the right hand side and reflected on what it would take to get all the issues fixed and moved under the COMPLETED sticker.

And then he reached for his camera.

Minutes later he had sent a picture of his stickers to all of his IT team.

And that was all he did. No explanation. No instruction. No encouraging words. Nothing. Zero.

And he waited.

It didn’t take long for something to happen.

Because he had done this on his Saturday one of his team worked in the Middle East on Sunday. Sunday evening an email popped up from his colleague. He had two stickers related to him. My friend opened the email and saw a picture attached and beamed all over his face when he saw what it meant.

The Middle East IT guy had recreated all the stickers on his own wall and then gone off and resolved his two issues ( issues that had been going on for weeks ). He had then moved his two COMPLETED stickers over to the right hand side and taken a picture. What was really pleasing my friend was that the Middle East IT guy had sent his updated picture of his sticker wall to all of his colleagues across the other countries.

Can you work out what happened next?

Monday morning came and by close of play more pictures were dropping into my friends’ inbox. Issues were being fixed and stickers were being moved to COMPLETED. It was all of a sudden a competitive moment among people that were separated by hundreds of miles and without a word being spoken.

People who didn’t talk to each other or were party to any instruction suddenly picked up the meaning of the sticky notes and set about replicating the visage of sticky notes on their own walls, and went about solving those niggling little IT issues. By the end of the week nearly all of the issues were COMPLETED.

This went on for weeks and at the next board review my friend presented a report confirming that nearly all low lying nagging issues were not only resolved, but that a culture change had been implemented among the IT team that ensured any further low lying issues would be resolved in short time. Whilst congratulations were not forthcoming from the hardened board members there was an acknowledgment that ‘a good job done’.

What really mattered was that my friend had now earned the right to focus on what he was really there for – presenting thought leadership on how technology could drive business performance.

Without issuing any written instruction or verbal command my friend had influenced the most simple of changes facing an IT service group – all for the cost of a pack of Post-it notes!

I still have the sticky notes and the pictures BTW 🙂