There's a prevailing belief that many businesspeople are bypassing their IT departments and ordering up scads of cloud-based services. While there is a great deal of truth in this perception, the most successful engagements are the result of close partnerships between IT and the business side.

That's the gist of a new survey of 879 executives conducted by the IBM Center for Applied Insights, which finds that organizations taking the lead with cloud computing are those that develop a cloud strategy closely coordinated by their business and IT managers.

In fact, among the “pacesetters” in the survey, the arrival of cloud services has delivered strengthened relationships between IT and line of business managers. Along with this highly positive management environment, a majority of these leading companies report enhanced business innovation and improved application agility, making it easier to quickly, easily and flexibly deploy and implement solutions. In addition, those companies that approach cloud in a consistent, holistic and collaborative way are far more likely to be capable of boosting self-service capabilities — 75 percent versus 26 percent of the less-inspired companies.

The first step for building such a positively charged environment comes from asking the right questions, the study's authors state. They make the following recommendations for achieving greater value from cloud projects:

Set ambitious objectives: Don't look at cloud engagements as one-off, under-the-radar projects, but as something far more meaningful for the business. “How could broader, smoother and more frequent collaboration inside and outside your organization improve results? Which teams could do a better job by leveraging big data to inform decision making? Which business processes could be better optimized? Where can you speed application deployment and implementation?”

Take a more strategic approach: “Position your SaaS (software-as-a-service) solutions within an enterprise-wide cloud strategy. What elements would round out your current SaaS strategy? Are you exerting just the right amount of control over SaaS deployment? How could you better integrate SaaS strategy into a broader cloud strategy? What changes are needed to keep your governance structures current?”

Broaden your collaborative base: “Multiply your chances of success by encouraging close IT and LOB (line of business) collaboration. Are you leveraging the best minds of IT and LOB for SaaS selection and investment decisions? Where else could IT and LOB gain from each other’s perspectives and resources? SaaS deployment? Security? How can SaaS help you tap valuable expertise beyond your organization?”

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

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