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Does Cloud Computing Kill Intimacy?

by Tom Bittman  |  March 5, 2009  |  4 Comments

kiss2 One interesting question that cloud computing raises is the importance of customer intimacy between IT and its business customers. Improving the relationship between IT and the business has always been considered a major goal – aligning IT and business strategies, integrating IT and business processes, ensuring IT people understand the business and vice versa. Strategy alignment leads to more proactive IT investments and innovations that help the business grow, and more business actions that leverage new and differentiating technologies.

On the face of it, cloud computing calls a halt to that – the big switch replaces intimacy with interface. Tightly define how the business communicates with IT, and requests IT services – through a self-service and programmatic interface. If you believe that IT is not differentiating, intimacy is a thing of the past.

I think there’s another way to look at it.

Cloud computing doesn’t eliminate the need for intimacy between IT and the business. I think it is forcing us to look at customer relationship differently.

  • Right-sizing intimacy: The level of intimacy needs are different for every service. Commodity, non-differentiating services need little to no intimacy between IT and the customer. Highly experimental, differentiating technology needs a tremendous amount of synergy between IT and the customer. Every service is different.
  • Managing customer relationship: Intimacy and customer relationship does not require a person to sit between the provider and the customer. In cloud computing, intimacy means understanding your market, and adjusting your service choices, service offerings, and their interfaces to meet changing market needs.

A modern infrastructure and operations organization will have services that are highly static and self-service, services that are highly dynamic and differentiating, and everything in between. Where intimacy is not needed, it should be removed and replaced entirely with a self-service interface. These services are great candidates for cloud computing (or private cloud computing, if public cloud offerings aren’t yet mature).

Where intimacy provides unique and differentiating value, services-orientation is still important. A codified interface is still important. IT needs to work closer with the business to understand service requirements, changing the service offering and the interfaces to meet those needs. Could these services go to the cloud? Less likely, but sure – as long as there is a way for the provider to collect feedback and information on changing requirements from customers.

Cloud computing won’t kill intimacy for all IT services, but intimacy will become more focused on responding to customer needs by managing the interface between providers and customers. Intimacy will be a reason that some services stay on-premises, and possibly evolve to become private cloud services. Intimacy will be a differentiator for some cloud computing providers, who focus on understanding their markets, listening to customers, and evolving their service offerings rapidly.

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Category: cloud  future-of-infrastructure  

Tags: cloud-computing  future-of-infrastructure  private-cloud  

Thomas J. Bittman
VP Distinguished Analyst
20 years at Gartner
31 years IT industry

Thomas Bittman is a vice president and distinguished analyst with Gartner Research. Mr. Bittman has led the industry in areas such as private cloud computing and virtualization. Mr. Bittman invented the term "real-time infrastructure," which has been adopted by major vendors and many… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Does Cloud Computing Kill Intimacy?

  1. I think the issue of intimacy between IT and business should be treated independent of the fact whether cloud is there in the picture or not.

    Even in cases where enterprise IT manufactures and delivers the “services” in the traditional manner, there are some services that will require lesser degree of intimacy with the business as compared to other services.

    Services that can be considered as commodity services, for example business collaboration services like email, do not require a high degree of intimacy between the enterprise IT and business even now. These services can be easily packaged based on certain characteristics (like mailbox size etc), offered based on a subscription model and can be pretty much self serving. The users can go to an Intranet, select the right package of “Service” and subscribe to the same.

    Services which are evolving, strategic, have the potential to impact the way an enterprise goes about conducting its business or impact the enterprise end customers require the enterprise IT teams to work closely with the business functions. Such services, hence, will fall in the category of services that require a higher degree of intimacy between IT and business.

    However, services that are strategic today may not be so tomorrow depending on how the service is consumed and evolves just as the case with the email service. As the service undergoes the change, so will the degree of intimacy associated with it.

    I don’t think the cloud computing model should change this phenomenon. The IT needs to ensure that they keep track of the demand and consumption pattern of the service and evolve the intimacy required accordingly.

  2. Tom Bittman says:

    I think I agree with you completely. The one thing I would say is that it is important for enterprises to understand their internal service portfolio, to build a strategy for each, and some of those will shift heavily toward interface and independence (less intimacy – although as I stated, providers can still be somewhat responsive to changing market needs), while others should become more intimate and integrated with the business than they are today. Those latter services should eventually become nearly fused with business units and business processes, the gap between what is IT and what is business gets fuzzy. This is the opposite of the services that will be pushed toward private cloud services and eventually public cloud services, which will be held much more at arms length.

  3. Chris Bird says:

    I think that we are in danger of confusing things. I want as much intimacy with my IT provider as I do with the power company. They need to deliver the service that is promised at the price promised – no excuses. That’s the T part of IT. The Technology layer.

    It isn’t that the business needs to align with IT, it is that there needs to be a way of expressing the business in terms that can be implemented in effective systems. Whether they involve T or not isn’t that important. It is the value of what can be delivered that is important. The platform (the T of IT) is uninteresting.

  4. […] recently i came across a blog post by thomas bittman on the subject of customer intimacy (  it is a good post that talks about how cloud might change the need for customer -IT […]

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