Cloud computing may be the most overhyped term in information technology (IT) today. It is also the most discussed topic in corporate boardrooms, chief information officer (CIO) conferences and IT security forums. In the end, all of the interest and questions condense around three key questions.

  • Should I really care about cloud computing?
  • What does cloud look like?
  • How do we prepare for a cloud computing future?

Should I really care about cloud computing?

Cloud computing is now an integral part to businesses with a recent survey showing that 97 percent of organizations use or plan to use cloud. This high percentage is not surprising given that the data also showed a strong correlation between cloud use and company growth. Seventy-two percent of cloud focused companies obtained 6 percent growth in the past three years, while only 24 percent of companies not adopting cloud strategies were able to grow at the same rate. Economic and operational advantages of cloud computing are revolutionizing business and governmental processes.

The other side of this double-edged sword is being used by cybercriminals to attack and siphon off more than $400 billion every year from the global economy. Cyber espionage and identity theft is believed to have affected more than 800 million people during 2013. This not only undermines international commerce, but also is detrimental to society as a whole.

What does cloud look like?

Cloud computing is a new model of acquiring hardware and software—except that in reality, you aren’t acquiring anything physical. The value associated with cloud is driven by the transition from using physical resources (hardware, software, labor hours) to the consumption of online services (infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, software-as-a-service) that deliver similar functions. While the technical aspects of this change make all the headlines, the governance aspects are generally put on the back burner. Unfortunately, required changes in IT governance processes and organizational behavior are rarely planned or executed in advance. This disconnect can quickly derail any cloud transition.

A transition to cloud involves:

  • Accessing new and powerful IT capabilities using a self-service model
  • Opening the organization up to a multi-provider IT ecosystem (Google, Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Apple, IBM, Dell and many, many more)
  • Enterprises choosing to adopt existing technology solutions instead of building their own
  • IT professionals being valued less on what they can do and more on what they can manage
  • An expansion of and reliance on shared information technology services

How do we prepare for a cloud computing future?

With cloud computing dominating business and society, we must prepare by reevaluating our current views in two fundamental areas: leadership and cybersecurity.

Leadership

To prepare for the highly collaborative, always on-the-go 2020 workforce, leaders need to start building the kind of workplace that can harness all of this new technology. One of the most impactful places to start changing the way your company plans for, hires and engages its talent is by understanding what is already possible with today’s cloud, mobile and social technologies.

The new workforce has relentless consumer-grade expectations for mobile, social and globally accessible tools with ubiquitous access to work. These expectations are challenging human resources and IT leaders to deploy technology solutions to attract, retain and manage their workforce while creating a collaborative, engaging employee experience.

Cybersecurity

With all of the news about cyberterrorism and hacking, the cloud may seem like the last place you would want to put your precious information. Pew Research has even suggested that cyber-attacks are likely to increase. Some 61 percent of more than 1,600 security experts believe that a major attack causing widespread harm would occur by 2025, according to the Pew Research study. The cold hard fact, however, is that fear of cyberterrorists and hackers—while definitely valid—is typically misplaced. Most of the failures around protecting our information and data is primarily due to our less than focused attitude toward cybersecurity. Policies, procedures and processes play an important part in preventing security incidents but more is needed.

IT professionals must keep up to speed with the latest industry best practices for application development, network configuration, system configuration, etc. This dictates continuous learning in both personal attitude and professional practice. What I am describing is the need for cultural change across all of society. Cloud has even made this most gargantuan of task more practical by enabling online training and education to be delivered everywhere at affordable cost through the convenience of your mobile device.