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8 project risks in public enterprise cloud

Rob Livingstone
September 30, 2011

If one were to believe the never-ending cloud computing buzz and hype, its adoption in the enterprise is as inevitable as death and taxation. At the same time, cloud is supposed to lower IT costs, speed up IT and business project implementations, and transform IT as we know it, to becoming a business unit in its own right, all at the flick of a switch.

The reality is that the volatile and rapidly maturing nature of cloud computing is bringing with it further fragmentation of definitions, interpretations, value propositions, and information overload for organisations. This further adds to the user’s confusion as to what it’s all about, and more importantly, how it translated to direct business benefit with known cost and risk.

This has potential implications for project managers who need to manage user expectations of almost immediate IT project delivery by using on-demand cloud systems and with it, the pressure to dilute project governance and adopt a more relaxed view of conventional enterprise project rigour as organisations seek to collapse project delivery times, driven in part by the promises that cloud computing offers.

Until recently, the initial focus has been on public cloud, which is what I’ll focus on in this article. It’s fair to say the business model is still maturing for public enterprise cloud.

‘Why should I choose a particular public cloud solution today with a vendor, if there is going to be a lower cost alternative, that’s better suited to my business tomorrow?’ is a common question asked by organisations that are being a bit more deliberate in their cloud decision-making processes. This is indeed a valid question, especially that the barrier to switching cloud providers is not trivial.

The majority of focus in the last year or so has been on the public cloud, and even though this has been around for a while, the jury is still out with regard to the intrinsic business model and value proposition for the enterprise market, for a range of reasons, some of which I will be briefly be exploring below.

Public cloud and the project manager

The use of cloud based project management tools services may be of real assistance to project managers in the management of their projects. The potential for improvements in areas of stakeholder communication (especially for mobile users), reporting and collaboration, should be obvious. No longer are you constrained to an on-premise version of MS Project! Additionally, no hardware would be needed and scale-up/scale-down effort is significantly improves, which leads to lower total cost.

Let’s turn our focus to some of the factors that project managers need to consider if tasked with the implementation of a cloud solution.

1. Lack of understanding of public cloud

While there is largely a solid understanding of what’s inside the public cloud ‘black box’ by CIOs and those in the IT industry, this is largely not the case for line-of-business executives and managers. As long as this asymmetry of understanding exists, the full relevance and potential of cloud computing may not be fully realised in organisations. Project managers also need to become familiar with specific issues and challenges associated with cloud computing, and quickly.

2. Opacity over key aspects in the cloud

One of the fundamental benefits of public cloud is the removal of IT complexity. It’s invisible to the end user. Paradoxically, this presents those organisations concerned about IT security, risk and governance with a challenge because lack of visibility of what’s ‘under the covers’ may present unacceptable risks if fully disclosed and understood. Effective project management governance is critical to ensuring that these risks are surfaced for scrutiny and management.

Rob Livingstone
Rob Livingstone is the owner of Rob Livingstone Advisory Pty Limited. He is a highly respected and experienced CIO, with more than three decades of professional experience in the corporate world, including a number of multinational companies. He is the author of 'Navigating through the Cloud'.
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