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What CIOs, business technology executives, and thought leaders had to say in 2015 about cloud computing. PLUS: what you need to know about cloud computing for 2016

The CIO on... why cloud?

Vince Stobart, Eddie Stobart IT director, says "Cloud service provision [is important] for flexibility and rapid deployment."

He says the logistics company is adding to its cloud arsenal: "The focus in on reducing time cycles to produce meaningful data and dashboards for both execs and operational management. Tactical BI solutions are deployed in finance via Cognos TM1 to improve information accuracy and speed of production using memory cube technology. The second focus is on near real time operational performance measures to enable better decision making."

Meanwhile Martin Bellamy, Director of Information Services at the University of Cambridge, says: "Cloud computing delivery models (services-based approaches), digital internet-based standards, integrated end-user computing platforms (including mobile), the ever growing capacity and cost efficiency of storage and processing solutions."

Cloud makes you money

Cloud can reduce waste. Literally. Wm Tracey CIO Paul Leonard is increasing the adoption of cloud computing as the waste company moves away from a culture of buy and keep to services, adding that although low, managing waste goods such as thousands of tonnes of paper does have some fire risk at the site headquarters.

IBM is already providing data centre services. Currently, Leonard's IT budget is £1 million, which he describes as a "huge spike" to deliver transformation. "My target will be on the savings we achieve and I'm comfortable with that."

And reduced waste means cost savings, which is the ball game. For at least the past two years SThree Chief Information Officer Lance Fisher has been refocusing the technology at SThree to be social, mobile, analytics and cloud, dubbed the 'SMAC-stack' by one of the analyst houses.

"Simply put, as we reduce our on-premise and legacy spend by efficiencies, we channel the savings into SMAC," he told this title's CIO 100 annual survey of transformative CIOs. "The overall impact is that my IT cost is not going up as we grow global sales staff, yet we are delivering significantly more business enablement from our systems."

Fisher has been a major user of Salesforce, which in turn has enabled greater mobility for the consultants of SThree, which improves the face-to-face opportunity for the business.

"The big-name strategic partners are Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft and SAP. We have just done a strategic deal with Dell to refresh all our desktops this year. We also have a lot of niche partners who help us greatly: Bluefin and Tquila in particular are helping us develop new apps," he says. Fisher is also considering the Microsoft Office 365 software-as-a-service toolset."

Cloud makes you more flexible and creative

Cape CIO Dave Jones is keen to increase the use of cloud technology for flexibility. "We are a fluid business and we do need to be as agile as possible. If IT is on-premises it increases the lead times of projects."

Then McLaren CIO Stuart Birrell (now the CIO at Heathrow Airport) has a similar view, equating flexibility with creativity. "SAP Hana underpins our ERP and is used in finance, purchase and materials. All of my P&L sits on Hana. The automotive business went live in Q1 of 2015 and we are wall to wall," he says of the cloud-based SAP platform. "It is opening up different ways of thinking about things, so we are looking at the reporting and business decisions in a different way that is more iterative."

With a short-term project to handle, Crossrail CIO Andrew Turner also values the flexibility of the cloud. Turner's own team is relatively slim and he relies on a portfolio of service providers to deliver the majority of the infrastructure service, with applications supported by a mix of internal and external resources.

"We are looking at cloud where we can use it and we are now at the point of sweating the assets," he says of the three-year countdown to a train leaving the platform. Turner sees cloud becoming useful for when the transition from Crossrail to operator begins.

The CIO on... moving to the cloud

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are moving to the cloud. Take Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate Group. Head of IT Toby Smith says: "We have recently signed a deal for cloud provision, provision of web services and are about to go to market for an EPOS solution, linked to conversations about our end to end ERP capability."

The Post Office is also moving critical functions to the cloud. Says CIO Lesley Sewell: "In the context of Post Office our Digital platform will be a key enabler and at the heart of our strategy.  Building it in such a way that we utilise all aspects of open, cloud and COTs products to give us flexibility is key."

With cloud technology growing rapidly, Belron Head of IT and Technology Innovation Nick Burton expects further standardisation from a cloud platform. He's moving to cloud infrastructure where possible, Belgium's Dynamics AX is on Azure "and we are starting to have discussions elsewhere." AWS has also been introduced by Burton's UK team. He's using Tibco Tibbr in the cloud for enterprise social media.

"I'm trying to make it easy for our countries, so it is simple for them to pick up the agreements. Each country is different, so we don't impose a new model when it comes to replacement as we don't want to right off investment, and the IT teams need to develop new skills."

Meanwhile then Cushman & Wakefield CIO Kelly Olsen, now CIO for NHS Property Services, says that cloud has also changed her role, personally: "Five years ago, we were very, very local and it is a cyclical business, so we have moved to global systems run from the cloud. That means my role is to make sure that our IT is aligned."

And the move to the cloud doesn't have to be too painful. A large part of insurance firm Hyperion's business technology sits in the cloud. Without any fanfare and in less than 24 months Hyperion Insurance Group CIO David Jack and his team built a transformational global architecture on Salesforce, Anaplan, Workday and Microsoft Analytics and some others. He believes that foundations are perfect for next stage of explosive growth.

"If I look at what we did with a tiny team in that first year," he says with pride of his team.

"We rolled out Salesforce to every desktop and we are using it as our enterprise content management (ECM) for the intranet. This isn't about CRM it is far more profound than that, Salesforce is the foundation technology to build a truly transformational collaborative autonomous environment."

The CIO on... challenges of the cloud

But it isn't all good, for all organisations. Oxfam CIO Peter Ransom says: "Significant impact on infrastructure to meet ever increasing bandwidth needs that causes issues with ability to deliver in all areas of the world we operate in. This means some user have different experiences to others. Cloud-based systems suffer from poor networks so need to be carefully considered."

This a theme developed by Cape engineering CIO Dave Jones: "The environment can be quite challenging for IT. North West Australia is remote, it is hit by adverse weather so it is not easy to get good solid IT infrastructure into plants, so we can end up with 150 contractors using a 100 meg link," Jones says of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plants in the outback. "We try and keep as much as we can in our data centres or the cloud, but that is a challenge if the comms are not fit for purpose. We use Riverbed for advancing the bandwidth, but that is not the way you'd choose to have things."

One answer is to eschew cloud computing. Here's Durham University CIO Dr Carolyn Brown: "We have designed and are tendering for three data centres, one of them is for High Performance Computing. This included a substantial increase in the University's power supply involving £1.6 million in investment.

"Extensive analysis and debate went into whether we could buy cloud services rather than host our own data centre – but the uniqueness of our HPC services, the cost impact of our obligation to pay VAT and the lack of appropriately-equipped local providers made outsourcing infeasible."

Staff can be an issue, too. Especially if you work for the MoD. Brigadier Alan Hill, the Ministry of Defence Head of Operate and Defend, says it is "always a challenge" to find design architects who understand new cloud and data centre technologies, not to mention people who can help run change management programmes and aren't too daunted by the complexity of the MoD.

He says work to improve skills is the part of his job that is most front-of-mind.

Cloud is... moving to mobile, and learning from the best

Moving to a mobile business has enabled Belron Head of IT Nick Burton to move to offering flexible working to all technical staff, managed by intelligent technology and the utilisation of cloud tools to ensure the strategy is effective. For a CIO to play a key part in such a brave journey they have to have a strong relationship with their leadership peers. Burton says one of the key milestones for his relationship was organising a Silicon Valley trip for the global and US executive teams.

"We went to Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo among others. It was a real eye-opener for people to see the focus and approach of these companies on issues such as mobile first. Desktop access to our service was at a plateau and the Silicon Valley trip really helped gain traction with the digital focus and brought it to life. This helped cement the fact that we can't not focus on this, and digital is a top four strategic focus."

Cloud is... putting the customer first

Cloud isn't necessarily about making a quick buck. Turning a publishing company into a service provider with unique information required an API-based technology strategy, Autodata CTO Neil Brooks looked not for an easy revenue stream win, but at exciting new ways of delivering valuable material to customers.

"Customers will shortly be able to manage their accounts themselves," he says of a subscription system and API that provides users with data and interfaces with the Chargify recurring billing system. Brooks uses "other cloud tools from Mandrill and Gmail, as well as Zendesk customer services to connect up all the customer touch points", he says.

The cloud in 2016

MoD CIO Mike Stone has big plans: "My intent is that within two years we won't be the laggards, we will be right on the leading edge. So, we will have a mobile base, cloud capability, Windows 10, Office 365 in a private cloud so that we will be able to provide our staff with the level of tooling that they need to do their job in a collaborative way," he says.

Stone isn't the only one.

Richard Norris, the head of business change at IT financial services provider Reliance Mutual says: "In 2016, I will move my virtualised infrastructure on to the cloud when the assets are off the balance sheet. That will also cover off my disaster recovery plans as well. At present, we have our own disaster recovery.

"We are reviewing all our services and looking to migrate them to the cloud, and I'd really like to get desktop as a service as well, and I have been looking at Microsoft Office 365 as it represents fantastic value. Office 365 is a better culture change here," he says.

And then there is Aviva CIO Monique Shivanandan. While Shivanandan says that Aviva is "pretty far advanced" in terms of dealing with legacy infrastructure – much of which is separated from front-end systems using APIs – plans are underway to move to a more modern infrastructure that will support the deployment of digital services globally.

This means a move to an internal private cloud, based on standardised hardware environment, as well as working with public cloud providers more widely where necessary.

"We have gone through all of our applications and capabilities from a customer data perspective. When it doesn't have customer data, let's move it to the public cloud, and when it has customer proprietary data let's architect our systems so they can work in a private cloud," she says.

On the next page, see what CIOs were saying about Cloud Computing in 2014 >>

Cloud Computing - The 2014 CIO review

Cloud computing was described in the 2013 What the CIOs said about series as a "ubiquitous topic". Of course 2014 was no different, so we present you with a review of what leading CIOs, and business and technology leaders, said about the cloud in the last 12 months.

"The way the G-Cloud is being used and the prioritisation to support small- and medium-size vendors and open source providers is very different from where we came from in public-sector IT. Credit must go to government CTO Liam Maxwell for this."
Jos Creese, Hampshire County Council CIO

"Through G-Cloud we are opening up the digital and technological supply chain. In this country we are fantastic at digital and technological services. We've got a great digital economy going and the government should be paying a part of that."
Mike Bracken, Government Digital Service CDO

Lotus F1 IT director Michael Taylor"We need to keep the crown jewels - the things that make a real different - in-house, and the supplementary things which are essential but not helping us to win can go in a public cloud.

"The hybrid model will be a common theme for us."
Michael Taylor, Lotus F1 IT director

"I wanted to remove the impediments to moving to the cloud and I can move to anyone's cloud. These are the technologies that the social media space use. If it works for them, I think I can make it work for me, they too are dealing with massive data volumes. All our Oracle platforms are on the cloud."
David Cooper, British Gas CIO

"We are analysing our applications to see how many we need and in what format. If we can, we port them on to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. When the organisation formed, it had 1,000 applications and we found we didn't need 300 of them and we're still going through the list."

"We have shifted all the computing power to the cloud. We don't need big powerful PCs."
Martin Britton, Natural Resources Wales CIO

Parliamentary ICT director Joan Miller

"Cloud comes in many different forms, and we've been using all of them. Some are private, some are public - and we have different reasons for using each.

"Our business is to engage with the public. Sometimes they want to engage with us. Sometimes we want to keep information in the public zone, but other things we need to keep secure."
Joan Miller, Director of Parliamentary ICT

"There is no magic trick to deploying SaaS solutions, but you need to choose a company with the right objectives, a willingness to share information, work with an open book and have an agreed set of behaviours.

"This allows us to really collaborate and work on ideas rather than revert to a contract whenever something goes wrong.

"A good SaaS supplier is happily plural and doesn't want to keep me in a silo - they know they can't sell me everything in the stack so there's no need for them to try anymore.
David Jack, Hyperion Insurance CIO

"We'll never have everything in the cloud. I have a global private cloud on IBM architecture in its data centre and it has changed the way we deliver IT as a solution. The IT function is like a department of independent developers. All the company can go to an app store and download the applications they need, which are architected and reliable. There is no customisation. You can make suggestions for customisation, though."
Jeremy Vincent, Jaguar Land Rover

"Buy, don't build - and keep it vanilla if you can. Our strategy is coming off owning boxes. It's less about box support and more about buying services, and the global nature of what we do lends itself to cloud services."
Peter Ransom, Oxfam CIO

Bank of Tokyo-Misubishi CIO, Ian Alderton

"We're looking at virtualisation, infrastructure-as-a-service, software-as-a-service and desktop virtualisation as well as the private cloud. The opportunity is there, it's about understanding the risks, so we may well reach a hybrid solution.

"I really want faster provisioning as well as increased resilience and believe that virtualisation will increase the uptime of our services."
Ian Alderton, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi CIO

"We've been able to eliminate dependence on physical infrastructure and now we only need one software engineering team with the know-how to support our infrastructure.

"But we haven't found the cost to be significantly different to running your own data centre. But we're not doing this on a large scale yet."
Jonathan Galore, Wonga CTO

"We invested in this model at the time because I was grumpy about having to buy any more tin. We didn't know it at the time when we started on this cloud journey, but a hybrid model is now where all of our tin and wires will sit.

"We hear from a lot of companies building private clouds. But it's the wrong solution to the problem; we don't want to be investing in tin and wires.

"I need to get the benefits of the economies of the public cloud, but I also need to stand in front of my regulators and be able to tell them where my data is."
Michael Bischoff, Betfair CIO

"SaaS helps me a lot as our challenges are international as we are a very merger and acquisition-driven business that acquires owner-manager businesses from scientific entrepreneurs. As an organisation, we need to bring them into a business, but not suffocate them.

"I want to be more plug and play and my boss is very good at looking at the long term."
Then LGC CIO, now Aegis Group EMEA CIO Gideon Kay

"The majority of our estate is now run on our private cloud solution. A small percentage, including the CRM systems, which is shared between most councils in Staffordshire, is run on secure off-premises cloud."
Sander Kristel, Staffordshire County Council CIO