David Jack (Group CIO at MetaPack) and I delivered a Cloud Masterclass at the CIO Summit this September.

David Jack has a broad, deep background as CIO. Before MetaPack, he was Group CIO at Hyperion Insurance Group (2013 to 2015), CIO of thetrainline.com the train ticket retailer from 2009 to 2013, has held a number of Director roles at online gambling leader Betfair who he was with between 2004-2008, served as CTO of Zygon/Itim  between 2001-2004, and worked in senior roles at thin client computing specialists  Citrix  from 1998 to 2001. Jack arrived at Citrix because (another dimension to the man) Citrix acquired the young Digitivity that David had joined from a background of starting and running his own software venture – an additional focus to his professional life that finds him currently as a Non-Exec Advisor to Ormary, which is an early stage on-line fashion business and to Astley Clarke the on-line jewellery business.

What made Jack particularly relevant to the CIO Summit Cloud Masterclass is this externsive experience gained in how the capabilities of cloud computing began to emerge into the world. Jack is someone who can reach behind the marketing blurb with a sceptical eye informed by grappling with these new developments as a heavy-weight CIO over the last decade. And remember the cloud has created the development of highly virtualised, higly automated datacentres, critical to today’s CIO.  Betfair was an early leader in the adoption of highly virtualised, higly automated datacentres in its in-house operations.

My August blog sought to place the current state of play in the cloud in the context of the continuing, rapid development of its capabilities – and its increasingly transformational impact on how we do business. My conclusion?  That the enterprise that moves with the times now has to go back to the fundamentals of what its business is and challenge accepted wisdoms. It will no longer be sufficient to transform one or two specific apsects of its operations such as moving its web sites into the cloud. An organisation is going to need to revisit the essentials of what its business is, what the basis of its competitive survival now is. Not just tinker with parts of IT operations.

It is this agenda, drawing on David’s extensive experience, that he and I will seek to articulate at our Cloud Masterclass – and to draw you into the debate!   

At the Cloud Industry Forum (which I chair), we have developed a road map that scopes the diversity of practical factors that the contemporary enterprise needs to address in considering its potential transformational journey ‘into the cloud’. We are using the framework to inform and to help the CIO and senior business colleagues scope and act on the challenges and opportunities faced.  

I believe that such Masterclasses will prove in time to be the best antidote to the risk of a great surge of expensive cloud consultancy ‘offers’ from the Big 4 (KPMG, EY, Deloitte and PWC). In my experience, by far the best approach a business can take in scoping the challenge & the opportunity of the cloud is to work its in-house resources, leavened by the focused external contribution of one or two experientially rich experts. This builds on the business’ knowledge of its self, allows it to scope the transformational journey it faces, and ensures ownership of, and commitent to, the inevitable organisational and cultural change.

The FT article titled ‘Accounting for Change’ focused on the Big 4. A detailed review that I recommend reading. The core issue set out is that our lead audit resource is finding it a lot more profitable to offer a growing diversity of advisory services – and the risk is that they are taking their eye off the audit ball.

One issue I seek to throw light on is what I call ‘assurance in the virtual’. Imagine a company whose business relies increasingly on cloud-sourced services. How does its Board assure itself of its security & cybersecurity? Of its data privacy protection and regulatory compliance? Of its business continuity and disaster recovery? Of its IP protection?

Can it turn to its auditors? Nothing in the FT suggests that our Big Four auditors are developing and maturing their audit offer in this vital direction. Rather than taking their eye off the audit ball, perhaps they should be reviving their audit practices, ready to tackle the inevitable strong growth in demand for ‘independent audit assurance in the virtual’ that will come with the rapid development in the exploitation of the cloud across the economy!