August 16, 2016
When I was a kid I wanted to be a major league catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. I’m pretty sure that most of you reading this had plans for an alternate career in your younger days. Nothing against accounting, but seriously, I think you could count the number of those of us who proclaimed, “I want to be a CPA when I grow up” on the fingers of one hand. Our career aspirations evolve as we get older, but recently, as a result of the cornucopia of cloud alternatives available today, a number of folks have decided that they want to be in IT.
Naturally, the desire of many of us to become our own “mini-CIOs”, comes as a shock to the guys and gals in actual IT departments since the last new guy they added was Fred, and that was over two years ago. However, the cloud now allows anyone in the organization to become a virtual IT member. The thrill of being the master of your own cloud supported application is further heightened by the anonymity. In a number of companies, no one exactly knows who is operating their own AWS or Azure supported fiefdom. The ability to become the master of your own domain through the possession of a phone and a corporate credit card makes the marketing or sales departments as likely to be operating their own cloud based systems as the people who actually have that in their job descriptions. This a little more hybrid than even the most ardent supporters of hybrid clouds probably had in mind.
While this democratization of cloud access may help some of us address our own individual or department desires, it can create problems for the organization as a whole with these applications being separated from the overall enterprise architecture. Although coordinating with the IT organization is not quite as viscerally exciting, it does provide a more integrated overall corporate hybrid solution. Very often in choosing to take on the mantle of “Department CIO”, the decision making process is driven by factors other than the ability to support the technical and overall business requirements. Scalability and supportability, for example, may not be immediate needs at the micro-level but become requirements over time. The selection of an approach which doesn’t offer this level of support can lead to costly and time consuming application do-overs. The “Do it Myself” mindset can also preclude the rogue organization from the ability to optimize their platform, support and even costs. Not all applications are suitable for the public cloud and may be better, and more securely supported in-house. Just because it was a good approach for development of the app, does not mean that the public cloud is best place for it long term. [Warning: public cloud security red herring about to be thrown out there for the purpose of a current event chuckle] As the DNC recently learned, one malicious Russian hacker can quickly spoil everyone’s good time. Finally, the aspiring pseudo-IT experts among us need to ask themselves, “Do I really want to be responsible for the management of this thing and its lifecycle?” More than likely, the answer is no, and working with the “real” IT organization can allow your application to be integrated into a larger corporate management and planning structure to enable it to scale and successfully deliver a satisfying experience for your customers through centralized, proactive management.
Ensuring that all corporate applications are delivered via the most efficient platform and are proactively planned for has always been the responsibility of the IT organization, but at a time of proliferating commercially available alternatives, sometimes it is hard to stifle our “alternative career desires”. Not acting on them requires discipline and the ability to see the bigger overall corporate computing “picture”. The ability to assume command of our own “IT dominion” may be a lofty ambition, but just like my failure to become a catcher demonstrated to me, sometimes other people are better suited for the job.