All of the attention surrounding the cloud can make it difficult for IT leaders to manage non-IT staff members' expectations of just what it can do.
Colleges and universities that leverage cloud computing realize substantial benefits, including cost savings, storage efficiencies, greater user access to broader applications and services, and much more.
But all of the publicity tied to those advantages is leaving some customers with the wrong impression. Take, for instance, the board that told its company director additional capital expenditures would not be funded because IT services would be coming from the cloud.
Unfortunately, many campus CIOs have similar stories to share, and they have their work cut out for them when it comes to combatting such misconceptions.
What's It All For?
IT leaders who understand cloud computing and have thought carefully about how their institution might take advantage of it can benefit from taking a step back to view the cloud from a non-IT perspective.
A solid communication effort surrounding an institution's potential uses of the cloud on a case-by-case, department-by-department or campus-by-campus basis must be at the foundation of every cloud adoption strategy.
Will certain schools within a university adopt their own cloud strategies, or will the university take a more unified approach? Will IT have adequate staffing to support internal and cloud offerings? What infrastructure upgrades will be required to maximize cloud computing's potential?
Providing honest answers to those questions when making the case to non-IT teams will do a lot to temper expectations among those who view the cloud as the ultimate solution to IT time and expense constraints. Such insights may help to sway those who have security or privacy concerns, or who simply don't understand how all of the pieces fit.
IT managers and CIOs also must keep their institution's main educational or business missions in mind when helping non-IT teams assess cloud offerings.
24% Percentage of campuses with a strategic plan for cloud computing
SOURCE: "The Campus Computing Survey" (Campus Computing Project, Nov. 2012)
Questions to Address Before Reaching for the Cloud
Ensuring an open dialogue on those missions, and how various cloud capabilities can help to achieve them, must take place even before a cloud adoption strategy is presented, and should continue even during and after the implementation.
It's also IT's responsibility to ensure due diligence when it comes to investigating cloud provider and vendor claims. Not all of the latest cloud technologies will be useful to every institution, so understanding and staying mindful of the underlying mission when entering vendor discussions will enable helpful response to stakeholder questions.
The tasks of defining the under‑lying staff and financial costs; seeing and communicating the pros and cons of various cloud products through an institutional mission lens; and offering frank, expert assessments of cloud claims all fall on the CIO's shoulders. It's a tough job, but managing the cloud message from the start will ensure better management of non-IT expectations.
On the road to cloud adoption, that's half the battle.