Help wanted: A new kind of cloud evangelist

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While IT has traditionally carried the torch of cloud evangelism in most organizations, there are many views on how cloud computing can provide value in multiple areas throughout a business. Gartner shocked many last year when it made the assertion that by 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT the CIO. With that in mind, I think it’s time that we challenge the belief that IT is responsible for driving the adoption of cloud computing.

If the last 5 years have shown us anything, it’s that organizations are looking for ways around traditional IT practices and procedures.  Either for reasons of budget, alignment, or leadership there has been aggressive shift in technology spend outside of IT depts. Business leaders are finding abstraction of cloud, flexibility of spending, and speed of delivery has given them a new sense of purpose, confidence, and control.  Considering business leaders are closer to the organizational goals, would they not make an organization’s most credible cloud evangelist? 

This scenario is support by research. An Evolve IP study highlighted in Forbes found that slightly over half of IT (53 percent) understands the benefits of cloud computing whereas C-level executives and directors see the cloud more optimistically (70 percent). Salesforce.com, with all its success, is the perfect example that cloud believers exist largely outside of IT. Another study by Dell’s Economist Insight Unit concluded that one in six (17 percent) CIOs are only “consulted” or have no role when IT strategy is formulated.  The study points directly to a perceived lack of business knowledge on the part of the CIO.

While it may seem rather unconventional at first, it’s actually quite reasonable that (with some exceptions) your organization’s cloud evangelist should come from the executive suite, not IT. As understanding of cloud computing evolves, the balance of power in the conversation will shift away from theoretical benefits and toward business unit needs and strategies. The skills and operational awareness derived from a "business" cloud evangelist may be just enough for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).The question is: Can business leaders bring enough knowledge and credibility from outside of IT to evangelize the cloud beyond that?   

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