Pressure from all sides to adopt the cloud: CIOs

  • External pressure comes from vendors and consultants
  • Internal pressure from top management and CIOs themselves
CIO Leaders panel (l-r): Sunway Group deputy CIO Jonathan Lim; MISC Group ICT manager Hood Abu Bakar; and VMware head of strategic business Matthew Hardman.

SENIOR technology executives are being increasingly pressured both by vendor pitches and internal management requirements to cut cost in their journey to adopt cloud computing, a group of chief information officers (CIOs) said last week.

Speaking at a panel session entitled Making the Most of the Cloud at the Malaysian leg of the CIO Leaders Summit, Hood Abu Bakar, general manager of ICT for MISC Corp, said vendors introduce something new every now and then, after which they market and push their solutions onto users.

MISC is Malaysia’s leading international shipping organisation and is listed on the Bursa Malaysia bourse.

“The pressure I get comes typically from vendors and consultants,” he said, quickly adding however that internal forces also play a part in setting his agenda as a CIO.

Noting that pressure also comes from top management and CIOs themselves, Hood said, “We are all constantly asked to do more with less.

“Vendors and consultants also keep promising us lower TCO (total cost of ownership), operating cost, saying that this [the new solution] is the way we should go.

“But at the same time, management also pushes us by asking us to lower cost. We are pressuring ourselves to try new technologies, and so it’s a two-prong thing,” he added.
Concurring with Hood was Jonathan Lim, deputy CIO of the Sunway Group, a large Kuala Lumpur-based construction and property developer.

Lim said the pressure to go to the cloud comes from senior management, as they seem to think that the cloud is the ‘Holy Grail’ and expect it to save their company millions of dollars.

“We do see the benefit of going to the cloud in terms of cost, scalability and agility,” he admitted. “But sometimes, when you actually present the solution, the costs savings may not be so obvious.”

Handling the pressure

When asked by Digital News Asia (DNA) what must be done to stave off the pressure from both sides so that CIOs can make their own measured decisions, Hood suggested that the first thing CIOs should do, having bought into idea of cloud computing, is to come up with a proof of concept.

Vendors, he said, would always present optimistic numbers to CIOs, especially in terms of savings.

“So a CIO will have to judge for himself, based on the proof of concept, whether the TCO is really there – and based on his own internal experience whether the case is doable or not.

“Once you do that, you can make a judgement on which way is better for you to go.

“CIOs can get all the assistance from the vendors but at the end of the day, it’s incumbent on you to bear the responsibility to decide whether you should go for it, or to postpone the investment to a later time, when it is perhaps more widely accepted and proven,” he added.

Sunway’s Lim was more critical, saying, “From my perspective, I think we should ignore them [the vendors].

“Whatever pressure they put on you as CIOs, you should view it as a form of communication of what’s available in the market. In the end, vendors can’t force their customers to do things they don’t want to do.”

Lim advised CIOs and heads of IT to first have their own vision and objectives – essentially a blueprint of what IT would be like for their organizations in the next five years – so that they can devise a plan to achieve those vision and objectives.

“Another thing to note is culture: Even if you can go ahead and give your company leading-edge technology, ask yourself if your company is ready for it or not.

“In Sunway for example, we are talking about people who have spent 30 or more years in the company. Would they be able to quickly accept new technology?” he said.

Lim also suggested that CIOs not only have a vision for technology but to also consider what can be accepted culturally from the company’s point of view.

“Knowing what is available is quite critical and this is where we have to thank the vendors for being so aggressive,” he said.

“But you must also ask how fast can you and your people move as a company? Ascertain that, and then only look at what is available and what the vendors are presenting to you,” he added.

Phased adoption

The two-day CIO Leaders Summit, organized by Media Corp International, revolved around emerging technologies and current challenges CIOs are faced with. DNA is one of the official media partners for the event, which was held at the Westin Kuala Lumpur from June 24-25, 2015.

Moderated by Andy Tan, the former CIO of RHB Banking Group, the panel also featured Matthew Hard-man, head of strategic business for VMware Inc.

Hard-man conceded that vendors do push their products, but said that this paradigm is part of the nature of all vendors.

But as cloud computing becomes more prevalent, IT workloads will have to be hosted somewhere, and cloud computing partners are going to be the one doing this, he argued.

“It becomes easier to create infrastructure on demand … and things will only get better for customers,” he claimed.

On cloud adoption in Malaysia, Tan acknowledged that cloud computing is here to stay as there are tangible benefits, such as licensing fees.

“Previously, in my role as a CIO, we actually did save in terms of licensing by consolidating and virtualising,” he said.

“Other areas where there are benefits are in disaster recovery as well as provisioning,” he added.

To a question by Tan as to whether cloud computing is a tacit choice or an option for the Sunway Group, Lim said that for his company, it’s a matter of choice.

“I would say that it’s a choice whether to adopt the cloud or not,” he explained. “The cloud is diverse so it depends on a company’s risk appetite and where you want to start.

“For us, we have part of our infrastructure in the cloud. We also practice ‘two-speed,’ [bi-modal] IT; our shared services group is more traditional but our group IT is more forward-thinking and is involved in product development and new ideas,” he added.

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