Silver Linings Playbook: Hard Earned Lessons from the Cloud

Session Title:  Silver Linings Playbook:  Hard Earned Lessons from the Cloud


  • Bob Carozzoni, Cornell University
  • Erik Lundberg, University of Washington
  • Bill Wrobleski, University of Michigan

The presenters agreed that they are all slightly insane, which is a good sign, IMO 🙂

Presentation Survey:


Session Goals:

  1. Challenge you to rethink the implications of cloud computing
  2. Provoke you to think beyond the status quo
  3. Inform you of what we’re seeing as we move forward
  4. Learn from you by asking questions


SLIDE:  It’s a BYOA (Bring Your Own App) kind of world:

  1. Consumers are more in contorl
  2. IT decisions are increasingly being made by non-IT pros
  3. Big, long software selction processes are a thing of the past

We generally don’t have the time to talk through the tech that touch the consumer.


SLIDE:  If no one follows, are we leading?

With SaaS, vendors go straight to the consumer (business).  Consumers are driving the bus.


SLIDE:  IT can lead in a new way, by:

  • Partnering
  • Inspiring
  • Coaching
  • Brokering
  • Enabling


SLIDE:  Slow Central IT means no central IT (be on the train or be under it)

Reality is that IT is never fast enough, even if you’re operating at peak efficiency and in the best possible way.

  • Concept to delivery must be faster than ever in a cloud world
  • You need to learn to move at the speed of cloud
  • A great but slow implementation is an unsuccessful implementation


SLIDE:  If you can’t take risks, end users will do it for you

  • Users take risks, often without even realizing it
  • No longer is risk managed through a single central decision /contract
  • We don’t have to be reckless, but we have to rethink how we look at and manage risk

Thinking about risk needs to be shifted.


SLIDE:  On-premise systems are too risky

  • Cloud providers survival depends on a rock solid security posture
  • They’re bigger targets, but they also make bigger security investments
  • Your IT security officer may soon be leading the charge to the cloud!  (there’s a big difference between security and compliance)

FISMA compliance may drive some ISO’s to push for the cloud


SLIDE:  big vendors rock (and suck)

  • Big vendors offer stability.  Also deep pockets for innovation, though not always in the direction we need
  • Small vendors are nimble, and will actually listen to higher education
  • Mastery of vendor management will become a critical IT skill

Independently we can’t influence big vendors, but they are responsive to consortia like Internet2, EDUCAUSE, etc.  While universities were cauldrons of innovation in the past, today we’re just small fish.


SLIDE:  Candlestick makers usually don’t invent lightbulbs

  • Transformative changes rarely come from someone immersed in operations
  • It’s hard to see over the horizon when you’re in the weeds
  • Liberate your change leaders so they can focus on change

Be careful in selection of your change agents and leaders!  People with positional authority are often NOT the people who can actually move the logjam forward.  You have to be intentional about giving people the free time and space to innovate.


SLIDE:  You need to be more fliexible than your cloud vendor

  • Customization creates lock-in, “version freeze,” and raises the cost of updates
  • Alter you business processes not the SaaS app
  • The days of customization are coming to an end

Using SaaS gives you economies of scale; you may need to stop thinking about app customization and start thinking about changing your business processes.  Expectations of your customers are different when using services provided by say, Google.


SLIDE:  Watch your Wake!

  • Cloud adoption, like any change, disrupts lives of real people
  • Find ways to support those affected by your transformation efforts
  • Help people work outside their comfort zones, but keep it outside their fear zone

The intellectual challenge is different now..instead of integration it’s a new intellection challenge.


SLIDE:  Experience can be a boat anchor

  • Deconstruct habitual thinking that’s based on old paradigms
  • Old  “What problem are we trying to solve?”
  • New: “What new opportunity does this present?”
  • Most of what we have learned about procurement, rsik management, project management, financial models and staffing is changing

Consumers don’t shop based on requirements, we shop based on what we want (right color, size, cost, etc.).  How we staff will change.


SLIDE:  Don’t Fight Redundancy

  • Cloud makes duplication more affordable
  • Feature overlap from our perspective is micro-specialization from the end-user perspective
  • Sometimes duplication is  bad, but it isn’t bad as a principle

We don’t worry about duplication in consumer products like ovens, toaster ovens, toasters, bagel toasters 🙂  Thinking about the middleware and integration points is probably a more useful exercise.


SLIDE:  Welcome to the Hotel California (check-in but never leave)

  • Make an exit strategy part of the selection and on-boardiing process
  • Getting your data isn’t hard, getting your meta data is
  • Architect to control key integration points, to minimize lock-in

Does your exit strategy work?  Have you ever tested it?  Automobiles are very dangerous, but have we stopped driving them?  No!  They’re far too useful.  We insure them!

Our focus is changing.


SLIDE:  Reviewed Summary of Survey



Biggest risk is the network…how do you address that?  Students have multiple ways to get to a network, whether it’s 3G, wifi, etc.  Even identity is a risk if it’s housed on campus.  Even the network itself is a security consideration.


Have you found a good way to deal with risk incurred by click-through agreements?  We work with procurement to review P-card stuff to see what people are buying here and there.  Click-throughs have never been tested in court…yet.


Can we take advantage of the work done by other campuses?  YES!  Aggregation of vendor negotiations is a good thing for everyone, sort of like a “buying club.”


What if the negotiated contract ISN’T good enough for your counsel?  The university needs to make that decision for itself.


What strategies have you used to get traditional procurement folks to get over their concerns with risk?  We’ve dealt with it from a relationship perspective.  You need to become best friends with your procurement folks.  We developed a default addendum that covers every single issue that might “light up” our procurement folks.  Our addendum supersedes your contract.  This shows that we’ve heard their concerns


Cloud “stuff” is very much like a cafeteria where consumers pick and choose the services they want…what services do you see IT continuing to value and maintain?





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