Partly Cloudy: Enterprise Software, Onsite and Off
Moving enterprise software to the cloud is a process, not an event, says Patrick Eischen, CIO of IBA Group, a fast-growing medical equipment and products company.
IBA wants to push what it can into the services realm. "We look at everything and ask, Why do we have to manage it?," he says. One major service choice: CRM from hosted provider NetSuite.
But certain core applications will be run in-house for the near future. IBA runs home-grown software to manage businesses with highly-specific processes, such as the sale of fast-degrading radioactive isotopes, and also hosts its own ERP systems. Venturing into the cloud and counting on a service level agreement for a core business process, Eischen says, is like relying on life insurance: there may be a payoff, but only your survivors will be there to benefit.
And so a big part of the CIO's job is managing the interplay between hosted and on-site software. Rather than using traditional middleware, Eischen is deploying packaged solutions from a vendor call Cast Iron. "Middleware is scary for small companies," he says. "It's complex and costly to manage. We like the idea of integrating on a web-service level." Using the Cast Iron device, he says, a business analyst was able to push pricing models from SAP to NetSuite without help from IT.
Part of the gradual transformation to the cloud involves a rethinking of the IT group, which has about 60 people. "We're transforming our internal support processes to services, with IT as a service provider," says Eischen. "That's a cultural change for the company."