Blog posted by: David Cannon, 04 August 2022.
As cloud computing is well into its second decade as mainstream, how capable are organizations of managing it well?
Companies - especially those trying to use cloud in more than one way - have struggled to adapt to the unique way in which cloud services should be managed. So, there is a need to upskill business and IT leaders on how to use the functionality and services offered by the cloud and manage the relationship with providers. ITIL 4 is currently addressing this through the ITIL 4 Specialist: Acquiring & Managing Cloud Services module.
Research has shown that about one third or fewer companies using cloud are achieving their objectives, such as reduced cost, increased speed or conducting new business.
The challenge is often that IT organizations are trying to manage the cloud in the same way as managing devices internally. With cloud computing you're buying a service, not devices - and the devices are invisible to you.
Equally, businesses are finding it takes more to manage a technology-based service than they imagined, for example managing the configuration of SaaS services over multiple releases. While cloud supports commoditized and generic services and applications, no organization is generic; it wants to do unique things which takes a lot of maintenance and updates. And this means investing in technology resources they were trying to get away from.
Also, from a cyber security perspective, protecting access to services is different to protecting devices. Although cloud services are designed to be inherently secure, security is not automatically guaranteed. Consumers still need to adapt and apply security policies so that services are configured, managed and used securely. This takes specialized skills and knowledge, not always available in an organization.
Cloud computing challenges - real-life impact
These challenges in procuring and managing cloud services are leading to real-life issues for organizations:
- In one example, an organization bought a cloud platform as a service to build applications. As cloud is a pay as you use model, the company found it was also paying for it at weekends when nobody was working. But this was because nobody at the company realized they could switch off the service. Once they did, they saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- In another example, a medical research organization started storing data in the cloud for a fraction of the previous cost. However, within two years it was spending double. This was caused by a lack of rigorous data governance, causing users to store duplicate information and access archival data in real time, which caused costs to spiral.
The ITIL 4 cloud extension module
With a need to educate people procuring cloud services, the ITIL 4 Specialist: Acquiring & Managing Cloud Services module brings the focus back to basics about cloud as a standardized service that is not infinitely customizable.
As innovation accelerates, many technologies become commodities. For example, servers were highly differentiated, and it really mattered which hardware you used. Today, cloud services provide virtual servers as commodities and the underlying hardware is invisible to the consumer.
Therefore, the skills and knowledge contained in the ITIL 4 module are not about the technical aspect but management, i.e., how do you build a cloud strategy? This is about shifting the expectations from buying bespoke solutions to acquiring standardized solutions to use in a customized way.
This also involves looking at organizations' operating models and what is being automated. For example, if a company is moving its inventory management system into the cloud, how does the warehouse work differently as a result? These are questions that need asking.
Having the right knowledge also means considering risks, such as uncontrolled usage of cloud services and what policies you need to handle this. For example, if business users are engaging directly with cloud providers (not via the IT department), they need the discipline to manage services effectively, therefore learning basic techniques of technology management.
ITIL 4 is now equipping people to work through these tornados of change and to manage the colliding worlds of cloud and on-premise IT. ITIL is ideal for this, as it focuses on the relationship between service providers and users/customers.
ITIL's service management disciplines - such as workload management - are essential as every transaction in the cloud is billable and if workload accelerates costs will increase.
Developing IT service management and management professionals
When the first ITIL 4 Specialist: Acquiring & Managing Cloud Services courses launched, people said: I wish I had known this six months ago. They clearly needed help solving the problems that cloud computing has created.
The ability to manage cloud services is one part of every IT or business leader's essential skills. Therefore, the ITIL module is aimed at leaders who have growing requirement to deal with technology in the cloud and need the techniques and mindset to do it.