Researching the adoption of cloud services allows us to consider mirroring from the opposite perspective. We can observe the organization, department or teams response to adoption of a cloud service or collection of cloud services. Within the empirical data, this manifests itself most notably within the IT department of the organizations adopting cloud computing.
It may seem a little unusual for a CTO to consider general adoption of cloud services as a first class citizen in architectural and development decisions. However, I believe it is critical to the success of any organization to bake the business model into the very DNA of the product being sold. The emergence of SaaS has presented a challenge and indeed a threat to the IT departments of the organizations adopting the service. Within Snapfix we have already experienced some harsh resistance from IT departments for purely self-preservation motives which contradict the needs of the overall organization. It appears from the research I’ve done that security issues are used as a red herring when objecting to new SaaS and for this reason, as well as the more sound technical and practicel reasons, I’ve doubled down on our security efforts within Snapfix. I’ve accelerated our security efforts beyond what we currenly need from a purely practical standpoint, so that we can mitigate any politically motivated objections from IT departments as we continue our incursion into the larger enterprise level organizations.
I have observed a repeating pattern across many of the organizationally focused academic papers included in the data. There is often an overall consensus within the organization that adoption of cloud computing services is a necessary and inevitable step towards increased competitiveness, efficiency and cost saving (Khajeh-Hosseini, Greenwood, & Sommerville, 20101; Khanagha, Volberda, Sidhu, & Oshri, 20132; Nieuwenhuis, Ehrenhard, & Prause, 20183). However, in the context of mirroring, there is a marked difference between the IT departments reaction to cloud computing and the reaction of the other business units within the organization. The IT department tends to resist mirroring of the cloud services whereas the other business units that are directly benefitting from the change, tend to embrace mirroring and make an implicit effort to better mirror the cloud services they are adopting.
This disparity has encouraged business units to ignore company policy and bypass the IT department when adopting new public cloud services. Khalil, Winkler, & Xiao, (2017)4 refer to this as ‘shadow IT’. In their case study, they note that the “security issue” is being used by IT departments to justify their slow response to the proliferation of cloud services. Other business units tend to express the benefits of cloud. Adoption of cloud led (broadly) to the redefinition of roles, with responsibilities migrating from the IT department to specific business units. This resulted in closer mirroring of the business units to the cloud services they were using. This often occurred without the IT departments consent and sometimes as a consequence of cloud adoption rather than a strategic decision by senior management. Business managers “feel [they] possess new powers through the cloud” and that “the IT department is no longer in total control of the organization” (Khalil et al., 20174). There is some evidence in the paper that adoption of cloud services such as SaaS CRM services are of major benefit and result in rapid increases in productivity because they already mirror, and therefore augment, the existing communication channels between business units and the customers they are communicating with (Khalil et al., 20174). The authors stress that communication issues are not the only reason that IT departments are not effective in adopting to cloud, but conclude that it (along with other HR issues) is a primary reason that IT departments are failing to adapt and remain relevant in the cloud computing era. Khajeh-Hosseini et al., (2010)1 research a UK based oil and gas software company’s efforts to migrate to AWS EC2 IaaS service. They discuss the changes needed in IT departments to mirror the arrangements inherent in cloud computing. They describe how the IT departments responsibilities were reallocated to the could providers and to the other internal business units who dealt more directly with the cloud providers rather than with the IT department. El-Gazzar, Hustad, & Olsen, (2016)5 observe a similar dynamic. IT departments who fail to mirror their capabilities and communications to cloud services are bypassed to facilitate speedy transition to cloud. One interviewee stated:
“I think [that] typical sales and marketing [people] go directly and buy, for example, Salesforce without involving IT staff in a good way—because IT staff will delay them and just ask questions that take a lot of time to answer” (El-Gazzar et al., 2016, p.735).
During my own interviews, our CEO Paul expressed it as:
“Our product is based in the cloud. Their [the hotels] IT department doesn’t have to be involved, they can use it as simply as downloading an app from the app store or the Android play store and they can be up and running very, very quickly” (Paul McCarthy, Snapfix, 20196)
In some cases, the pressure to adopt flows in the opposite direction and it is the cloud provider that must adapt to the consumer as discussed next. This asymmetry in power has affected our choice of feature set within Snapfix. In the past and to a lesser extent as of this writing (Nov 2020) Snapfix introduction of features can be influenced by just a handful of prospective customers.
In cases where the organization has some bargaining power, they can pressure us to provide better mirroring of their organizational needs, rather than adapting to Snapfix existing service. Jones, Irani, Sivarajah, & Love, (2019)7 study of local government organizations within the UK demonstrates this as well. There was a complicated cloud configuration process required and the organization was not equipped to deal with this. Rather than changing the internal processes of the organization, they insisted that the cloud provider alter their own service to better mirror the organizational capabilities of the local authority.
The somewhat pessimistic view held by IT departments under threat from cloud computing is not universal across the data. There are cases where the IT departments take a highly proactive approach and enthusiastically tries to accommodate the cloud services being introduced. However, this happens mainly in cases where private cloud IaaS services are being adopted and integrated by the IT departments. In these cases, the IT departments are facing less risk of downsizing and can better adapt their skills to the provision of the infrastructure. Govindaraju, Akbar, & Suryadi, (2018)8 studied a Telco who were adopting private IaaS services. The IT dept morphed from a distributed IT organization to a much more centralized IT function. This occurred in a highly mirrored manner when the organization changed from having 27 distributed (on-prem) data centres to having just 4 large private cloud data centres. This shows a proactive mirroring strategy. There was a strong emphasis placed on creating and maintaining strong communication channels between the (internal) private cloud providers and the telco’s other business units that were consuming the new cloud services. Another case of proactive IT department adoption was studied by Nieuwenhuis et al., (2018)3. They noted that adoption of public cloud results in IT intensive roles being repurposed into business process management roles, particularly with the adoption of enterprise public cloud services. Project management roles are transformed into more agile like roles in-line with the cloud service characteristic of continuous delivery and continuous development.
In an earlier case study conducted by Khanagha et al., (2013)2 which also concentrated on the Telco industry, they noted strong support for mirroring. Three separate business units were partially merged, in the form of a product team for each product offering. This better mirrored the organization to the technical cloud offering. This enhanced mirroring represented a turning point in their cloud adoption after 2 years of struggles to adopt.
Khajeh-Hosseini, A., Greenwood, D., & Sommerville, I. (2010). Cloud Migration: A Case Study of Migrating an Enterprise IT System to IaaS. 2010 IEEE 3rd International Conference on Cloud Computing, 450–457. https://doi.org/10.1109/CLOUD.2010.37 ↩︎
Khanagha, S., Volberda, H., Sidhu, J., & Oshri, I. (2013). Management Innovation and Adoption of Emerging Technologies: The Case of Cloud Computing. European Management Review, 10(1), 51–67. https://doi.org/10.1111/emre.12004 ↩︎
Nieuwenhuis, L. J. M., Ehrenhard, M. L., & Prause, L. (2018). The shift to Cloud Computing: The impact of disruptive technology on the enterprise software business ecosystem. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 129, 308–313. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2017.09.037 ↩︎
Khalil, S., Winkler, T. J., & Xiao, X. (2017). Two Tales of Technology: Business and IT Managers’ Technological Frames Related to Cloud Computing. 21. ↩︎
El-Gazzar, R., Hustad, E., & Olsen, D. H. (2016). Understanding cloud computing adoption issues: A Delphi study approach. Journal of Systems and Software, 118, 64–84. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jss.2016.04.061 ↩︎
Paul McCarthy, Snapfix, 2019 ↩︎
Jones, S., Irani, Z., Sivarajah, U., & Love, P. E. D. (2019). Risks and rewards of cloud computing in the UK public sector: A reflection on three Organisational case studies. Information Systems Frontiers, 21(2), 359–382. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10796-017-9756-0 ↩︎
Govindaraju, R., Akbar, R., & Suryadi, K. (2018). IT Infrastructure Transformation and its Impact on IT Capabilities in the Cloud Computing Context. International Journal on Electrical Engineering and Informatics, 10(2), 395–405. https://doi.org/10.15676/ijeei.2018.10.2.14 ↩︎