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For years, the IT industry has been experiencing growth in outsourcing.  Organizations large and small have looked to utilize the promises of lower cost of operation.  Witnessing this trend over time has allowed me to see something emerge that I have long held as truth.  Users have a responsibility to be accountable.  Accountable to the service that they have contracted for, the information provided, the knowledge of the ownership of information, the recoverability,  the usage, and the measurement against established criteria to name a few.  Cloud is no different.  I like to say, “You cannot manage that which you do not measure, and you cannot measure that which you do not know about”.  Nonetheless, countless organizations dive into contracting for a service at one level and demand the service of the levels above that which they have contracted for.

When an organization outsources “backup”, for instance, the act of recovery must have established objectives (both time and point).  This may come as no surprise to countless people in the business, but few organization have prioritized which applications are mission critical and need different recovery objectives than say the holiday office party logistics.  While some may have done this, too many do not have an application matrix which outlines up-line and down-line dependencies.  The number one reason why a “backed” up system cannot be restored, beyond hardware failure, is the lack of synchronization with the application up-line and down-line dependencies.  So, why is it that the yelling and screaming commences once the failure occurs and the information provided was incomplete, inaccurate, or simply missing with regard to the actual nature of the criteria for success?  It seems that the answer is lack of responsibility and accountability.  The user no longer feels any responsibility or accountability for the “backup” since they have contracted for it even though they have not contracted for the level of service they are demanding, nor have they done their due diligence to manage the contracted service.

Cloud computing is no different! Enterprise Capacity Planning, Enterprise Architecture, Strategy, and so on are still the responsibility of the Organization that would contract for Cloud services.  Thus, they must perform due diligence in managing these programs but few do.  Early in my career, I worked as a consultant at a PC manufacturer.  I overheard a conversation with a customer one day that went something like this.

Customer: The computer you sent does not work!

Customer Service Agent: I am sorry to hear that.  What seems to be the issue?

Customer: I keep pressing the foot pedal and it does not start! 

Albeit a humorous story, the customer was used to sewing and thought the mouse should act just like the foot pedal of the sewing machine. We cannot expect that a new industry trend such as Cloud Computing will act or behave the same way IT has internally or externally in the past.  Responsibility and Accountability for performing due diligence and establishing proper results measurement is on the shoulders of the organization that contracts for such.  Sending out Requests for Proposal or other procurement mechanisms with little to no actual information about the environment, data flow, information integrity, information availability, and information security for Cloud Services as has been done countless times for traditional outsourcing is outright irresponsible.

Cloud Computing is a different beast.  It is a service that handles information, not necessarily assets.  It is similar to the Internet.  You do not own the assets on the Internet that are the common delivery mechanism for content.  You own the content that you put on the Internet.  So, Organizations must own the responsibility and accountability for the Cloud Service for which they contract.  They cannot demand levels of service above that for which they contract (i.e. 2 hour response time from a cloud service provider for a customer owned asset support contract that is unrenewed or first come, first served).  The accountability of managing the results supplied by the cloud computing service contract are solely on the shoulders of the user organization.  The cloud service provider does own the service level deliverables but not the service management results.

I am not advocating that outsourcers and cloud service providers are without accountability and responsibility.  I am simply stating that you get what you pay for.  The success or failure of using cloud within your organization is squarely up to you.

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