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Potholes on road to the cloud

In a recent blog entry written to coincide with the European Commission’s announcement of a new digital agenda, its vice president Neelie Kroes argues strenuously in favour of greater adoption of cloud computing across Europe.

By 2020, she writes, the cloud could amount to a significant chunk of the European economy, “equivalent to a few hundred euros per citizen”. But, she adds, that can’t happen without a strong framework in place for cloud providers and, of course, cloud customers.

“Without trust, many people are nervous or uncertain about using these new services,” she explains. “There are legally complex issues, like cross-border liability, who ‘owns’ the data in the cloud and so on. And those hold a lot of people back from diving into the cloud.”

In order to understand some of the issues hindering business cloud adoption, as well as how these might be overcome or at the very least circumnavigated, I spoke to three European technology leaders: Daniel Marion, head of ICT at football governing body UEFA; Peter Vandevenne, EMEA vice president of IT and chief information officer at pharmaceuticals group Janssen (part of Johnson & Johnson); and Cliff Evans, chief digital officer at systems integration company Capgemini.

I began by asking them about the hurdles to cloud adoption that they had encountered within their own organisation or had seen other organisations stumble over.

Your business might not need a certain piece of functionality today, but you know it’s there if you need it tomorrow

The answer was unanimous: it’s the data control issues – privacy, security, compliance and ownership – that continue to bother businesses the most.

“These issues are extremely complicated for businesses looking for cloud services and, in my view, the legislation really isn’t developed enough to give corporate customers the comfort they require in many cases,” says Mr Marion of UEFA.

In a heavily regulated industry like pharmaceuticals, these issues mean that some services will never be migrated to the cloud and will likely always remain in-house, leading companies including Janssen to pursue a hybrid cloud strategy, where a mix of private and public cloud services are deployed, says Mr Vandevenne.

“Data control and risk management are by far the biggest obstacles and I’m not just talking here from the IT perspective, trying to protect my domain. There is a risk involved with cloud solutions.”

The problem is, he continues, that this fact is not always recognised by those procuring cloud services. “It all sounds very easy for business people to contract cloud services and pay for them on a company credit card, without consulting IT. But this is the company’s data that they’re handing over and IT is the department in charge of company data. The IT team are the subject-matter experts here,” he says.

“You need IT involved and you need legal involved. In fact, you need all the relevant stakeholders involved, including finance, executive leadership and the end-users. This might make the procurement process longer but, when significant risk is involved, I don’t see that as a bad thing.”

Getting consensus between all these stakeholders is no easy task, says Cliff Evans of Capgemini, because they each view the cloud differently. He says: “IT may be looking for greater efficiency, but finance wants cost control, while sales and marketing’s goals are greater agility and a better customer experience. It’s only by building consensus and getting these requirements in alignment that barriers can be overcome, and an organisation can start moving ahead quickly.” 

This calls for the IT leader to assume a new role; if they’re not willing or able to do this, another obstacle is created. “The IT leader role is changing: he or she needs to be more of a broker, who spends their time working to understand the needs of the business, and then going out, identifying and contracting the best services to meet those needs. That’s the way I see IT moving forward,” says Mr Marion.

For companies in Europe issues of local support, data location and language (the market is dominated by US providers) were three of the main obstacles cited by an IDC survey of more than 1,000 businesses in May.

Meanwhile, an IT leader’s internal role is to reassure and educate the business about the cloud, as this may help to make a more realistic assessment of the obstacles around control, says Mr Marion. “You’ve got to reassure the business that you will guarantee the company’s data is backed up and remains owned by the business at all times. Trusting a cloud provider to do everything for you may be a step too far for many businesses at this stage,” he says.

“By education, I mean that the IT leader needs to explain the benefits of the cloud in a way that has real impact for the business. One example might be the continual upgrades you get with software-as-a-service [SaaS]; for a business, that means a continually evolving service developed to meet modern challenges. Your business might not need a certain piece of functionality today, of course, but you know it’s there if you need it tomorrow, and it might be that functionality that gives your business an opportunity for real differentiation and competitive advantage.”

Tackling these cloud challenges now will mean big benefits later, says Dr Evans. “It will help an organisation prepare for the massive changes that are undoubtedly ahead; for a world where the exchange of expertise and information forces us all to think beyond the four walls of our organisations, and concentrate more on effective collaboration with colleagues, customers and partners.”

Daniel Marion, head of ICT at UEFA, will be speaking at Cloud Expo Europe, National Hall Olympia, London, January 29 and 30, 2013. Register for free tickets:



Cliff Evans, chief digital officer at Capgemini UK, created the company’s digital service orchestration framework for cloud services used to deliver projects for UK and overseas clients

Daniel Marion, head of ICT at UEFA, leads at a team of more than 90 people involved in networking, event management and digital media

Peter Vandevenne, Europe, the Middle East and Africa vice president of IT at Janssen pharmaceuticals, translates business strategy into technology solutions