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You don’t have to read the business news for long to understand that businesses are under constant pressure to address ever-changing market conditions worldwide. And do it quickly! Businesses must deliver new products and services in different ways to survive, and thrive, in a global marketplace that consists of established and emerging competitors, changing regulations and uncertain economic circumstances.

So, how do businesses make this happen? The short and simple answer is “business transformation,” namely, making timely and fundamental changes in how business is conducted in order to meet different and often challenging market conditions. Sounds easy, right? Sure, but only to those who never tried it.

Successful business transformation takes time and considerable effort across many organizations to ”rip and replace” old systems, services, processes, and methodologies with new, better ones. It should be no surprise that IT plays a key role. In order to make fundamental changes in the business, the IT organization must transform the underlying infrastructure, applications and services. This is critical because IT is the backbone of the business, and it supports all critical business processes.

IT must be more responsive to new requirements and drive greater innovation at higher productivity levels so the business can respond with faster execution of key business initiatives. In short, IT organizations need to be very light on their feet, but not “lightweights” when it concerns project execution and the reliability, scalability and availability of their information systems. IT managers must understand that the bar is never going to be lowered, so get your game up and adapt. The mantra “go big or go home” seems very appropriate.

So, what are the key drivers of IT transformation? There are several, but I only want to focus on a few for this short series of blog articles, namely cloud computing and standardization of a print service layer (Printing as a Service). Let’s start with cloud computing, which is getting a lot of attention these days. This is a top priority for many CIOs as they seek ways to transform their IT systems to meet the challenges of an ever-changing marketplace.

With cloud computing, IT services are delivered “on demand” over the internet on a pay-for-use basis, much like our daily experience with an electric utility company. These IT services include applications, operating systems, servers, storage and other IT resources. Organizations are shielded from the associated complexity as well as the responsibility to acquire all the bits and parts and make it all work together. Instead, they only focus on the end result; for example, use of a critical business application that can dynamically scale as required.

Cloud computing drives innovation and business/IT transformation through its flexible computing and business model. It reduces costs, improves business processes, and promotes IT standardization across applications and infrastructure. It can also make your business and IT organization far more agile, so you can better react to changing market conditions.

Businesses can procure IT services from a public cloud; implement their own private cloud; or adopt a hybrid cloud model where they can use a mix of private cloud and public cloud services to meet their objectives. They can also choose between three different types of cloud computing services commonly referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

You can logically view these three types of cloud computing as a “stack” that is comprised of a broad ranges of services built on top of one another. IT organizations are free to mix and match SaaS, PaaS and IaaS to meet their business objectives. Today, many large enterprises are focusing on IaaS and PaaS in their private cloud deployments, whereas SaaS is often procured from public cloud providers (e.g., As cloud solutions continue to prove their value, business and IT leaders need to determine where the greatest strategic opportunities exist for cloud within their enterprise.

Regardless of which cloud modality you choose, the result is an application which generates data, often in the form of business documents destined for printers, email recipients, and document portals. How does cloud computing mesh with the infrastructure used to manage your business-critical documents? In next week’s installment, I will make the case for a standardized print layer, i.e., Printing as a Service. Stay tuned.

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