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Views from the Prairie

January 12

Why “The Cloud”?

Several companies are making a big push for "Cloud Computing". Oracle has "Oracle on Demand". Microsoft has "Azure". Amazon has EC2. There are a number of new technologies converging into "Cloud Offerings" and the different vendors offer different mixes of those technologies. Between all this, there can be some confusion.

There are several main business reasons to go to the "Cloud" but saving money on current operations is usually not one of them. These reasons are the push for anywhere computing on any platform and the push to simplify IT infrastructure. Companies get greater and new capabilities at a lower cost and faster by using the "Cloud".

For a long while, business computing meant desktops and laptops running one brand of operating systems, Windows. That meant that the IT department could write programs that ran on those operating systems and the executives and sales people would run the programs without any problems.

Now, executives and top sales people have smart phones and tablets and want to use them for accessing the corporate functions. Most of these devices are running other operating systems. While a number of companies have opted to write applications for those operating systems, most companies do not have the resources to move everything over.

One answer is to change the corporate systems so that they can handle any operating system and any device being anywhere.

The other business reason for "the Cloud" is that corporate IT systems have been rigid. That means that when demand for some services grows, it can take a bit of work to add IT resources to handle that demand. In some cases, the demand has surged quite rapidly and that growth caused significant problems. One part of "the Cloud" is the software that allows the IT system to be much more flexible - adding servers, drives, and other resources without the users knowing that any such changes had taken place.

Notice that saving money is not a usual business reason for moving to the "Cloud". Moving current operations is not likely to save much. It is likely to cost a lot. For applications that currently run on the laptop, it can mean a total rewrite. IT departments may be able to use some of the technologies of the "Cloud" internally at lower cost than renting them from a "Cloud" provider.

Many companies will be able to rent space in a cloud application giving them resources and capabilities that they did not have before. Such rental is definitely cheaper than developing such services. But for a "mission critical" private application, it is not "cheap and easy" to move it to the cloud.

Moving to the cloud is not a simple task. Reading through the case studies, just moving email support to the cloud has proven to be a significant step. Most companies need to plan, make contingency plans, and be deliberate when moving operations to the cloud. As in all actions, things may go wrong in the move. In some industries, regulations may prevent moving some aspects to the cloud.

Educating Instincts

Evaluating Meetings

Meetings are expensive. Many people who are not authorized to spend $500 on outside vendors can call an hour long meeting of engineers that can cost over $1,000. Does anyone check to see if the meeting was worth it?

Some companies are starting to measure the effectiveness of meetings and of those who are calling them. These companies are finding that evaluating meetings is a good way to improve the company's operations. One way to evaluate meetings is to pass out evaluation sheets at the end of the meeting that simply ask if the meeting was worth the time that the person spent being there. Other questions might be "how would you suggest improving this meeting?", or "What two things would improve this meeting?"

Meeting evaluations need to be done right at the end of the meeting. If people are allowed to put that evaluation off till the next day, half the people won't do it at all.

Both meeting participants and leaders fear asking for this kind of feedback. Meeting participants may fear retribution and leaders fear their faults exposed. It takes real courage to start asking for feedback. The results from those who have done so is that the process brings far more participation into the meetings, the quality of meetings goes up, and the team has better cohesiveness. All of this makes for better productivity and a better team.

Running meetings is a skill that is often not taught to new managers. Yet, meetings are so much a part of their lives. It helps to have training and feedback so that we become far more effective in both running meetings and in the rest of our management actions.

Risky World

With all the Internet devices coming onto the market, we see that security is not always considered. A town house in Washington DC owned by the Chamber of Commerce was hacked into so much that the thermostat was communicating with a server in China and a printer started printing pages in Chinese.


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