Can you sack your IT department?

Although the IT department is often accused by cloud vendors of clinging to control for its own sake, it's vital to have the IT team evaluating new services says Ian Bradbury, solution design manager at Fujitsu Siemens Infrastructure Services.

"Organisations continue to need the knowledge their IT departments have to evaluate the viability of these solutions," he said.

"You cannot just assume they will work for you out of the box and that something better will not come along tomorrow; it will, and it will need to be evaluated and implemented. There are technical, compliance and scalability issues all needing expert knowledge to resolve. You will also need an IT department to 'glue' these solutions together into a coherent IT service."

And unpicking the existing infrastructure isn't always simple. Replacing your CRM system with a SaaS version is one thing, but if your current CRM is integrated into your finance systems, and your delivery tools - and the Excel spreadsheets that actually run most of your business processes - the cost of the transition may eat up the initial savings. They may not be running on servers you have to deploy, patch and back up, but services still have to fit into your enterprise architecture and you have to think end-to-end, advises Bradbury. "How do you ensure integrity and business acceptable service levels are maintained across a transaction?" he said.

Someone also has to do the basic maintenance points out Schalk Vijoen, SAP's global director of mid market strategy. "The ERP systems, the finance systems and the supply chain systems are the backbone of the organisation; they have to be up and running and users have to have access," he said.

"If you use SaaS and you are outsourcing the day-to-day maintenance and running to vendors, that's still not guaranteed access. Making sure the Internet connection and the local network are up and running - that still needs to happen."

Mary Branscombe

Mary is a freelance business technology journalist who has written for the likes of ITPro, CIO, ZDNet, TechRepublic, The New Stack, The Register, and many other online titles, as well as national publications like the Guardian and Financial Times. She has also held editor positions at AOL’s online technology channel, PC Plus, IT Expert, and Program Now. In her career spanning more than three decades, the Oxford University-educated journalist has seen and covered the development of the technology industry through many of its most significant stages.

Mary has experience in almost all areas of technology but specialises in all things Microsoft and has written two books on Windows 8. She also has extensive expertise in consumer hardware and cloud services - mobile phones to mainframes. Aside from reporting on the latest technology news and trends, and developing whitepapers for a range of industry clients, Mary also writes short technology mysteries and publishes them through Amazon.