Guest Post by Rob Fraser, Cloud Services CTO, Microsoft Ltd

A new study from Forrester, commissioned by Microsoft Ltd, has found that cloud computing is empowering ‘change agents’ from all corners of an organisation to deliver business innovation and drive positive business change.

Essentially, it shows that where there are certain types of people who are willing to push boundaries and innovate within their organisation, with applications and services delivered via the cloud acting as catalysts for positive change.

You might expect then that the study would reveal a sort of ‘wild west’ of IT, with un-sanctioned projects popping up all over the place and creating an unmanageable IT environment, what is often referred to as shadow IT. But the reality is quite the opposite. It shows that the most successful cloud deployments are those with strong alignment between business and IT and that all projects from those interviewed had engagement from IT.

This is clearly good news to ensure IT environments remain secure and adopt the correct rigour towards governance and privacy. But Forrester did make some bold recommendations to IT as cloud adoption becomes more widespread.

IT to evolve

The study suggests that IT departments could consider becoming ‘cloud brokers’, offering a marketplace of services and applications which the business can call on to innovate and deliver value (see how Microsoft is supporting this at www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com)

Skills to change

Forrester suggests that cloud computing is accelerating the shift in skills requirements for the IT function from technology to business management. One of the study contributors, the head of IT at a UK University said: “We will have to start having people with different skills. 80% of the [IT] department today consists of technical resources, 20% is business. We will shift to more business management skills when managing multiple [cloud] services.”

Maintain the close alignment between IT and business

Independent of the origin or executive sponsorship of a cloud project, successful initiatives require strong collaboration between business and IT. Forrester states that “The vision of ‘swiping a credit card’ and getting a complete, functional cloud solution is a fairy tale in most cases.”

Ultimately, we think that cloud computing will provide the impetus for IT leaders to become agents of change within their organisations and fulfil a long-promised role. IT is sometimes said to be 80 per cent focused on ‘keeping the lights on’ – the day-to-day operations that keep essential services up and running. However, the cloud means IT can start to find a way forward to providing new capabilities, adding new value and working with the business to create new offerings.

What do you think? Has cloud driven innovation in your organisation and how have you kept control over shadow IT deployments? Please share your examples with us or join the discussion at http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Cloud-Computing-Microsoft-UK-3837607/about

To read the full report, visit www.microsoft.co.uk/changeagents