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Part 5 of the series on Corporate Connectivity, other posts include: N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – The PilotN.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 1: NetworksN.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 2: Communication (and Collaboration), and N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 3: Information

Information-Systems-and-Computer-Applications-CLEPThe underlying systems that tie all of this together are evolving at a lightning pace. Driven by the continuing consumerization and “appification” of IT, we have seen an explosion of technology, including smart phones and tablets. In 2012, for example, the number of smartphones in the market exceeds 1 billion, and it is estimated that by 2015, tablet sales will exceed that of traditional PCs.

This technology explosion has help to drive the skyrocketing growth of social media platforms. Facebook users have exceeded 1/7th of the world’s population, and during the 2012 presidential debates, people tweeted over 10.5 million times in a two-hour period.

Add to this the growth of software-as-a-service and other types of cloud-based applications, which are expected to triple in the next three years, and you have a pace of change that is mind-boggling. IT departments the world over are trying to keep up.

Goodwill Technology Solutions has embraced all of these changes with the motto of “any time, any place, any device.” Our internal server architecture is about 90% virtualized. Server virtualization was the first step in our strategy to become more agile and reduce the time spent “keeping the lights on.”

The next step was to move away from dictating which smartphone an employee must use to a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach that enables our employees to pick the smartphone that works best for them. We were also one of the first companies to embrace tablet technology, using iPads throughout the organization, including issuing one to each of our IT Service Technicians to enable them to stay on top of their support tickets.

We took a significant step in the “cloud” by migrating from Microsoft Exchange and Outloook to Google Apps for email, contacts and calendaring. Most recently, we launched cloud-based HRIS (Human Resources Information System) and payroll systems using Workday as Goodwill’s Employee Management System.

Next Up: Series Finale: The Results

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

A year ago a huge event took place in the city of Indianapolis. No, not that silly little football game (though, it was great to see a CloudManning beat Brady, even if it wasn’t Peyton), a REALLY huge event. In the early morning hours after the crowds all left downtown, we took our first major leap into the cloud. We converted from our on-premise email, calendar and contacts application to Google Apps.

Yes, we had used web-based applications prior to that time, but none that were truly born in the cloud applications. The success of that conversion is what really launched us into a cloud-first strategy. As a CIO, I had been very reluctant to take this approach. We had very sound guiding principles regarding application procurement and it didn’t include having our data scattered all over the heavens. After countless conversations, months of research, and attending several workshops and presentations, I decided we would pilot a couple of cloud-based solutions and the incumbent’s current version.

Honestly, what really pushed me to the launching pad was a comment one of the panelists made at MIT Sloan’s Annual CIO Summit. He was discussing IT projects and stated they could be categorized into two types of projects: A-C Projects and C-F Projects (no, not THAT kind of C-F project!). Some projects, no matter how fantastic IT performs the best grade your partners in your business will give you is a “C”, but if you aren’t successful, you will most certainly receive an “F”. (Really, when was the last time someone thanked you for delivering that email to their in-box). On the other hand, there are some strategic, innovative projects that can make the IT department heroes. I left the conference vowing to have our team spend as much time as possible on A-C Projects and that meant someone still had to deliver the mail.

After the pilot, the team (about 30 members strong from all areas of our business) voted unanimously to go “to the cloud”. Even then, I wanted more certainty before exposing the enterprise to any undue risk. With the help of a local consultant, I converted two small companies I own to 100% cloud-based applications. Finally, I took the recommendation to our executive steering team.

In the year since our go-live, we have taken a cloud-first approach to all of our projects. Note, this is not a cloud-only approach. We still evaluate based on functionality, fit and costs, but all things being equal, we will give the nod to a cloud-based, cloud-born solution. Case in point, we went live January 1 of this year on a cloud-based payroll system and just this last week launched our cloud-based Human Resources Management system to rave reviews.

Don’t get me wrong, cloud is not the answer in every situation and there are still many aspects of cloud-based apps that need some maturing for the enterprise. Password management and single-sign on are issues (ok before you comment that there are solutions for this, I know, but they add a layer of complexity that is still a hard sell), as are integrations and data management. And, don’t get me started on the contract Terms and Conditions that many companies present. THAT part of the industry definitely needs some maturing.

Cloud (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, CaaS and all the other aaS’s) offers the possibility of spending more time on value-add activities and is truly disruptive to the “way it’s always been done”. I would love to hear your journey to the cloud!

To read more about our specific conversion read my guest blog post at Google’s Enterprise Blog by clicking on the Google icon. Google Header

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.