I’ll admit it: my judgement is cloudy. And while it is getting a little cloudier every day, I can clearly remember when that wasn’t the case. I’ve been in higher education IT long enough to recall a time when technology procurement decisions, be it for software or hardware, were made by talking to the relatively few vendors who met a particular need, deciding on the best product, and then installing the product in our data center. Some people refer to that era as the “good old days.” I couldn’t disagree more.
I even remember the first time my judgement became cloudy. It was when the school where I worked at the time decided to explore Gmail as an alternative to replacing aging on-premises hardware and upgrading on-premises software. It was the first, true discussion that we had within IT, and indeed across the campus, as to whether the time was right to move email to the cloud. And while the decision wasn’t an easy one, it was not a technologically complicated one either as moving email to the cloud was a fairly self-contained decision. And moving email to the cloud proved to be empowering. It was the first time that IT was able to reduce a large amount of time, and money, spent on keeping a service operational and instead repurpose both to more strategic activities. I’m guessing that, by now, the majority of you have had your judgement clouded by email in the same way.
But over time, my judgement has happily continued to become cloudier. My current institution has embraced the notion that what is strategic isn’t keeping technology running, but rather helping the campus make better use of technology, deploying new technology more rapidly, and ensuring all of our technology investments can integrate. And there is no better way to do this than by moving services to a cloud provider. Moving to the cloud allows everyone involved in the transaction to “win” by focusing on their strategic strengths: vendors can focus on supporting and enhancing the technology itself; IT can focus on supporting the use of the technology and partnering to find new technologies to meet current and emerging needs; and the campus gains reliable solutions, that are quicker to implement, and that can be tailored to meet specific needs while working in the context of the whole.
My campus has embraced a wealth of cloud solutions that are now providing exactly these benefits. Moving our ERP to the cloud meant that we could take IT staff, whose responsibility was to patch and manage on-premises technology, and instead have them focus on partnering and collaborating with the campus to explore new ways of using the software to improve business processes. Moving our telephone switch and support to the cloud has meant eliminating almost all of the IT time spent on adds, moves, and changes. Instead, we now have time to explore new ways of leveraging this “older” technology to enhance services to students, such as connecting students with our call centers using modern technologies like webchat, SMS (text messaging), Facebook Messenger and Twitter. We’ve also made some other moves to the cloud both big (including our LMS) and small (including authentication services).
And every one of these moves has facilitated and encouraged me to make my judgement even cloudier. We have embraced a cloud-first strategy because we believe that while keeping a technology solution running is necessary, it is certainly not strategic. We can hire cloud providers to do what is necessary to keep things running, using their economies of scale. We can then spend more time on what is strategic: determining needs, more rapidly implementing solutions, and helping the campus use and leverage those solutions. Indeed, every technology procurement now focuses first on understanding needs, so that we can implement correctly, second on the cloud, so that we can implement faster, and finally on integrations, so that we can implement smarter. Cloudiness is allowing me, my colleagues and my institution the ability to implement technology solutions that make the whole far greater than the sum of the individual parts.
I continue to happily cloud my judgement to help my department and my institution focus on what is strategic rather than what is simply necessary. And I suspect you, your department, and your institution would benefit if you, too, made your judgement cloudier.
Want to know more about moving to the cloud? Check out VMWare’s video on how to start this process:
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