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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Steven John, Strategic CIO Of Workday (Part 5)

Posted on Friday, Aug 5th 2011

By Sramana Mitra and guest author Siddharth Garg

Sramana Mitra: In terms of your own operations at Workday now, I know you went across a couple of different organizations and you have been playing with the cloud. When an organization starts to move to the cloud, what are some of the first pieces of that are being moved? In your opinion, what are some of the first pieces that should be moved to the cloud?

Steven John: Again, I think there is a learning curve, so I think people need not to rush in. I think they need to go with more commodities, non-mission-critical systems, and we have talked about several of those already. I think you ease into it, you mitigate your own risk, get comfortable with it, understand how to manage it. One example I would use, one of the things I didn’t realize as I went into the cloud with Workday specifically was that, I mentioned before about their update schedule every four months. That kind of threw me back: How am I going to do testing for every four months the way I am used to doing it on these major systems? What I needed to realize was in my due diligence I had validated their testing procedures, so I wasn’t testing, I was validating. I was making sure my data was OK coming out of an update and that my integration points were secure.

Other than that, I trusted in my due diligence and my continuing audits that Workday was doing all that testing, as they should. So, it really shifted my behavior and how I approached the process. CIOs and IT departments need to learn those things, and they need to learn how to manage the relationship. One of the things they talk about is if you go into the cloud, you need to have a prenuptial agreement, and by that I mean I understand how the relationship ends before it begins. You need to determine where your data is, what format your data is in, and if you chose to go somewhere else, how do you get your data?

SM: I would love to know more about what, in your opinion, are the best practices of a severance agreement and your termination agreement?

SJ: Well, one of the difficulties in the cloud is that there is not a lot of competition per se. One of the difficulties is, in the future the question will be, How do I go from one cloud provider to another? Right now it is, How do I go from one cloud provider maybe to another cloud provider or to an on-premise model? What you are really looking for there is that your data is in a transferable format, so that it is not unique to your cloud provider’s environment such that you cannot extract it and move it somewhere else.

SM: And is that something cloud providers are generally set up to handle?

SJ: At the end of the day all you own is the data, right? You have outsourced everything else, so yes, one of the things I discussed up front with them is this fact.  I think we haven’t seen a lot of examples of it in the world yet, so I don’t think we have seen a lot people move from Salesforce to an on-premise solution, and we certainly haven’t seen people moving from Workday to a different solution, so I think some of those things are still to be tested. They are on paper, but the discussions have been held. It is like the legal community; there is no precedent yet to show us how it works in the real world.

SM: It is kind of a monopoly situation at the moment.

SJ: Well, I wouldn’t use that term because you can move. You might have to go to an on-premise solution, so one of the conversations you need to have is, once I decide to move, I still need to run on your system for an extended period because on-premise solutions can take 18 months or two years to build. That needs to be built in the contract upfront.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Steven John, Strategic CIO Of Workday
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