The flexibility to purchase cloud services with just a credit card and without technical IT knowledge, has meant that cloud sprawl is a much bigger issue than shadow IT ever was.
Cloud can be invisible; it can be locked up in individuals’ user accounts, it can’t be registered on an asset list by walking around an office. Shadow IT was more visible – is that a new printer you’ve got over in the corner? What’s this server under your desk?
But cloud – who knows where it is throughout your organisation?
Have you tried documenting and tracking your organisation’s true cloud usage? Or have you become blinded by cloud sprawl?
The ease of purchasing cloud has contributed to its ubiquity across businesses. Anyone with a company credit card can purchase cloud services – and companies are now also seeing more BYOA (Bring Your Own App) where staff are selecting their own apps, sometimes free, to get their jobs done. A good example is Mailchimp – the email sending and tracking software. Many people wouldn’t think twice about setting up a Mailchimp account and importing contacts to send out a company newsletter – but what happens when that staff member leaves; does the account go with them?
We are often trying to manage cloud in the same way that we managed traditional IT purchases – but the purchasing models are now fundamentally different. CFOs are struggling to understand what their IT budget is with so much cloud sprawl muddying the numbers. Traditionally, the IT budget would be set, but now it’s often unclear what the real spend is, and it can be impossible to predict costs if using a pay as you go cloud service based on consumption. Bills can vary, budgets can increase and planning becomes more difficult.
Who is in charge?
So who is in charge of the cloud services across your business? Who makes a decision about whether to purchase the services? Is it always IT? Or does Marketing purchases their own SaaS apps? Does HR use its own SaaS HR tool that they purchase locally?
Who sits above all of these cloud decisions?
Often, it’s now the CFO or Finance Manager. Before, it would often be the IT Director with Finance signing off on budgets. But now, in the wake of cloud sprawl, it’s often the Finance Director having to make the call on whether to approve purchases.
Perhaps in some businesses, there is a joined up approach to cloud purchases: Finance signs off on the business case, IT is notified and everyone discusses how the new service will sit alongside current systems and how the cost will fit into IT’s budget.
But I wager that there are many more organisations that don’t have this joined-up approach in place; where cloud has run rampant through their business, and the cost-savings originally intended as a result of moving to the cloud may all have disappeared due to the number of new services added every year.
Bring back control
When I started writing this article, I thought about how could organisations better control cloud sprawl.
But I’m not sure they can – we can put in place recommendations about developing asset registers for cloud services, and cloud service purchase process standardisation – but will that be realistic?
Perhaps cloud will have to fully mature within organisations before we can hope to start controlling it more thoroughly.
A few things to look at in the interim, are:
- Are you overprovisioning cloud services? Many times, out of a fear of moving to cloud services, customers overprovision and end up paying more than they need to.
- How are you managing user logins for cloud services? Do you have a central system for keeping track of user logins for the different cloud services used across the business in the event of a staff member leaving?
- Do you have a purchase code in your accounting systems to track when cloud services have been purchased for easier reporting?
There’s a saying (some say it’s from Spiderman, I couldn’t possibly say), that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ – and a similar saying is true for cloud: ‘with great flexibility, comes great complexity (if not managed)’.
What are your thoughts?