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Stéphane Rousseau spoke at the dinner “CIOs in the multi-cloud era: how to control complexity (and costs)” organized by Alliancy, a media of influence on business transformation, with Lucernys on December 10. On this occasion, Alliancy interviewed him about his challenges in managing the growing presence of the cloud at all levels of the company of 65,000 employees in 50 countries. This acceleration is not without financial and cultural impact.

To what extent has the cloud been a transformation factor for Eiffage in recent years?

Stéphane Rousseau. In our journey to multi-cloud, I see several facets to consider. The first is the spread of the cloud as a vector of services, particularly through Software as a Service. It has become a part of every company, because we simply have less and less choice. Some new digital services are based on the cloud and others are making their forced transition anyway, with vendors announcing the change out of the blue. For the CIO, this means understanding more and more cloud-to-cloud operations, while changing all of his or her ways of doing things, to manage identities and data flows. Both development and supervision teams must learn a new trade.

How is this a new profession?

Stéphane Rousseau. The real challenge for the IT department is to achieve a true multi-cloud IT operation, not just to be satisfied with being subject to the rules of the cloud by reproducing its old ways of doing things. But another facet of the cloud is that it also brings new complexity to the criteria for choosing an IT infrastructure provider. In other words, the CIO must be prepared to answer several questions: does he really want to do multi-cloud as he did before when he did multi-vendor in his datacenters? Is it really comparable? Where will the focus on simplification and harmonization that the CIO has been seeking for years really be?

Are there already clear answers to these questions?

Stéphane Rousseau. Various possibilities are open to the CIO. Either he will have to multiply the skills in his teams to really hope to take advantage of the benefits of the multicloud, or he will have to add a layer of abstraction to simplify his life, for example through “cloud brokering” platforms. The promise of the latter is seductive, but it still seems complicated for many players. The level of parameterization requested is indeed not insignificant. There is therefore a technical and organizational complexity that must be addressed.

What about managing the financial complexity and “costs” of clouds in an IT department?

Stéphane Rousseau. We have to be realistic, if we are sold more and more cloud, it is also because from the point of view of the provider, the economic equation is very interesting. Great vigilance is required. The third facet to be taken into account is therefore that of management control. To choose your clouds, you need to have the necessary elements to make an informed choice. The change in the way IT departments operate, and the IT projects of companies in recent years, have many advantages and they open the way to many optimizations. But eventually, this approach can be reversed to the detriment of the company, almost imperceptibly if the right indicators are not monitored, and the cloud then becomes a path of cross.

At Eiffage, I’m not in the mindset of taking my different performance criteria and choosing a different cloud for each of them. However, when I choose a provider, I will really identify the criteria on which optimization is possible, and those on which I will have to find another solution. We often hear: it’s a good strategy not to put all your eggs in one basket, but I think the subject is more complex than that. The consequences of parallel engagement in multiple clouds goes beyond just competitive management of multiple vendors. All the more so as the migration from cloud to cloud is still complex: what happens if you want to adapt? Going backwards?

But do companies really have a choice?

Stéphane Rousseau. By construction, all companies, and Eiffage in the forefront of them, are now multi-cloud. If only because of the nature of the international activities of groups, multi-cloud is often necessary for geographical and performance reasons. However, this leaves many questions unanswered from an IS control point of view, even beyond the regulatory aspects.

Let’s be humble, we all still need to learn, because we know that the financial stakes will increase.

Already on a single cloud, these issues are complex, as the cost structures themselves are difficult to grasp. This complexity increases exponentially with the number of clouds. Each cloud comes with its own logic, its own workings, and a relative transparency.

How do you respond to these issues at Eiffage?

Stéphane Rousseau. There is an urgent need to develop new functions in the IT department that will be at the crossroads between IT and management control. It is a priority to bring out this mix of technical and financial skills, in one way or another. Some companies will want to train them, others will seek them out from providers, but none can ignore this topic that some call “FinOps”. The advantage of wanting to tackle this difficult issue of dual technical and financial competence around the cloud is in any case to make people aware of an urgent need: we cannot be satisfied with reproducing what we have been doing until now in an information systems department.

It is the very culture of the IT department in terms of budgetary vision that must change.

We need to move away from traditional purchasing policies and move towards real-time cost management, and above all towards real usage. To achieve this, our technical administrators will often have to question their daily routine. And the CIO will have to support them in this awareness of the change in their business, in parallel with the integration of new skills.

What advice do you have to help CIOs prioritize?

Stéphane Rousseau. CIOs must manage many transformations in parallel, but it is impossible to run all the hares at the same time. The priority to prepare for an imposed era of multi-cloud is therefore to move forward step by step, on a controlled perimeter, initially with a single provider. There is already a lot to be done, with methods and tools, to observe the evolution of the multiple cost factors, to see empirically the logics and the financial axes that are the most at risk, that cost the most. On these specific aspects, it will then be possible to look at other service providers, but above all to loop back, in an iterative way, with management control practices that must be questioned. It is important to bear in mind that many IT departments, such as Eiffage, already have a number of solid fundamentals in this area on which to build. There is no question of management control being the sole guarantor, or even of IT administrators taking over financial aspects alone. A middle way must be found to intelligently accompany the meeting of the two worlds.

Interview by Dorian Marcellin. Also to be found on Alliancy.