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Navigating and Nurturing Cloud Governance in Your Organization

Shane Quinlan

9 min read

Last updated on August 1st, 2023 at 3:41pm

The cloud is your chance to grow without limit. Every department gets excited about using its own little piece of the cloud without the constraints of server capacity and those pesky IT gatekeepers. Finally, everyone’s free to reach their full potential and…wait. More rules?

Ah, cloud governance. Some may see it as a roadblock to productivity, but governance is essential to your organization’s operational, security, financial, and regulatory health. It impacts every business, from the tiniest startup to the gigantic corporation.

The trick is to balance governance rules with enabling everyone in your organization to boost their productivity, all while keeping up with ever-evolving regulations.

But don’t fret — you’ve got this. And to help you along, this article delves into these critical considerations and offers insights into how you can navigate and nurture cloud governance within your organization.

Understanding Cloud Governance

Cloud governance includes the guidelines that ensure everyone in your organization manages cloud resources and processes effectively. It spans business areas and encompasses the following considerations.

Operational Considerations

First, there’s operational governance. It manages and optimizes day-to-day interactions with cloud resources, including provisioning, deployment, and monitoring. Operational governance ensures that your organization uses cloud infrastructure effectively to maintain its desired level of performance and availability.

Security Considerations

These days, even the smallest company needs to consider security governance. It includes the policies, procedures, and controls to safeguard your cloud infrastructure and data. Governance offers risk management, access controls, encryption, and compliance with industry-specific security standards to protect everyone’s sensitive information and maintain privacy.

Financial Considerations

Of course, there’s the budget to consider — and it’s not just up to the bean counters to keep spending on track. Financial governance monitors and optimizes cloud-related costs and investments. These efforts help organizations allocate resources effectively, control expenses, and maximize their return on investment (ROI) from cloud services while preventing budget overruns.

Regulatory Considerations

Even if you don’t work in a highly-regulated industry like healthcare or banking, you likely have privacy regulations to consider. Regulatory governance addresses legal and compliance requirements for your organization’s industry and region. It ensures that your organization meets its regulatory obligations, including data protection laws and industry-specific rules, avoids fines and penalties, and prevents other infractions that can lead to serious reputational (and legal) damage.

Other Considerations

Organizations like yours face new technology and business management challenges as they adopt cloud technologies. You may need help finding the right tools to manage cloud resources, particularly in complex cloud environments. Additionally, your organization could be battling issues like shadow IT, where departments purchase and use cloud services without proper IT oversight.

“In a cloud environment with no limits, the cost of services can add up quite quickly — not to mention the potential back doors into your company’s data.”

Bridging the gap between IT and business expectations poses another challenge. For example, finance departments may question the ROI of cloud investments, while executives may wonder why the time-to-deployment for new features isn’t improving as anticipated. You need to spend enough to reach these contrasting, sometimes competing, goals. But you can’t spend too much.

Addressing these challenges requires a robust cloud governance strategy that balances productivity with compliance, aligns business and IT goals, and leverages the right tools to ensure seamless cloud management.

Roles and Responsibilities in Cloud Governance

A cloud governance policy is pointless if nobody is there to implement it. Effective cloud governance requires clearly defined roles and responsibilities, with individuals or teams dedicated to ensuring cloud resources' security, compliance, and effective management. Someone needs to keep up with new compliance standards and ensure everyone follows the rules.

Luckily, technology capabilities and tools help facilitate effective governance. Kion, for instance, offers a holistic cloud governance platform that makes governance infinitely easier. Our comprehensive financial management and governance features help organizations excel in the cloud through:

  • Resource discovery and filtering — Find resources across multiple cloud providers and filter your cloud resources to quickly identify and address issues or areas for optimization.
  • Compliance management — Identify gaps, remediate noncompliant findings, and ensure you’re fulfilling industry standards and internal policies across all cloud providers.
  • Cost control — Monitor and manage cloud-related expenses, optimizing resource allocation and preventing budget blowups.
  • Access management — Control cloud access and permissions, ensuring only authorized individuals can get and manage cloud resources.

Kion helps you implement effective cloud governance, reducing risks and streamlining governance processes.

Risks of Inadequate Cloud Governance

Every organization faces the risk of inadequate cloud governance. One of the more common issues is a lack of cloud security compliance and cost management. Lapses in security compliance can let the wrong people into systems and data, triggering fines, lawsuits, and even shutdowns.

One of the best examples of cloud governance gone wrong is Equifax. In 2017, bad actors tapped into the consumer credit reporting agency’s records, exposing the personal information of millions in the US, UK, and Canada.

The hackers gained access after the company failed to patch a known security vulnerability. Yes, that’s right. A security vulnerability that industry experts were aware of — that had a solution, but that Equifax simply missed taking care of.

The fallout included several lawsuits, regulatory fines, and damage to the company's reputation. The incident and its aftermath cost Equifax over $1.4 billion.

Speaking of losing money, cost management is another crucial aspect of cloud governance. The last thing your budget needs is needless spending on resources nobody uses. When IT and finance teams collaborate, they can keep expenses in check while optimizing where to allocate resources.

Ineffective cost management can batter your budget as workers use their resources inefficiently, ultimately impacting your organization’s bottom line. Gartner predicts this will be a significant issue through 2024, as 60% of infrastructure and operations leaders face cloud overspending that puts a dent in their budget.

You can mitigate these risks when you prioritize security compliance and cost management. Embrace a robust governance strategy, encourage collaboration between IT and finance departments, and use appropriate tools and processes to ensure everyone uses cloud resources safely and cost-effectively.

Why Governance Fails

Why does governance fail? It’s usually down to two reasons: something went wrong with your people or your technology. Both need the right support from your organization to put governance into place.

People Factors

When we say something went wrong with your people, we mean that there was some kind of miscommunication or breakdown that led to governance failure. These issues, which often stem from company-wide siloing, include the following:

  • Lack of awareness — It’s hard to follow the rules when you don’t know the rules. Employees must know security and compliance requirements to avoid unintentional violations. Offering periodic training and creating a culture of security awareness helps ensure that all employees understand their role in maintaining compliance.
  • Poor communication — For effective governance, everyone needs to be on board. Inadequate communication between teams or departments can cause conflicting priorities and misunderstandings about governance requirements. Establishing clear communication channels and encouraging collaboration between departments involved in cloud governance is vital.
  • Undefined roles and responsibilities — Someone has to govern your governance. When roles and responsibilities are unclear, tasks may fall through the cracks, leading to compliance gaps. Clearly define and assign roles and responsibilities to ensure accountability.

Technology Factors

Governance failure doesn’t just fall on the folks who make up your organization. Technology issues can sink your governance success — Titanic-style.

  • Inadequate tools — You can try a makeshift approach to keep track of all your governance rules and initiatives, but you risk something crucial falling through the cracks. (Think Equifax’s missing patch.) The right tools and technology help you manage cloud environments effectively. Investing in robust cloud management and governance solutions like Kion can help you streamline processes and maintain compliance without all the risk.
  • Complex cloud environments — As you adopt multiple cloud providers, managing and maintaining governance across these environments becomes a bit like juggling a few tennis balls and a couple of chainsaws. A centralized cloud management platform like Kion handles cloud governance for you, providing visibility and control across all cloud environments so you can see the big picture or zoom into the details.
  • Misconfigured resources — It’s all too easy to choose the wrong settings in the cloud. These misconfigurations can cause security vulnerabilities, regulatory noncompliance, and inefficient resource usage. Regularly auditing and monitoring cloud resources via automation and policy enforcement tools helps prevent and remediate these misconfigurations.

Balancing Governance and Productivity

Your teams ‘don’t want no stinking' rules getting in the way of doing their job. Cloud governance is effective only when it doesn’t hinder productivity. When you adopt guardrails instead of blockers, you strike a balance between governance and progress, ensuring that teams remain productive while adhering to necessary security and compliance requirements.

Guardrails guide employees without obstructing their work. For instance, you can empower teams with real-time insight into cloud expenses to encourage accountability and responsible resource use. Guardrails also balance governance and autonomy. Instead of being told to spend less, teams can see where the money goes and work toward the common goal of lowering unnecessary spending — or make a case for a bigger budget.

Controlled self-service provisioning within a higher education institution is an excellent example of guardrails. Higher education institutions face the unique challenge of a large percentage of user turnover annually as students and researchers move on to other endeavors. Enabling teams to provision cloud resources independently using a single platform while also holding the power to deprovision and remove access from these accounts helps prevent abuse and noncompliance.

Some practical ways to balance governance and productivity include:

  • Role-based access control (RBAC) — Each role in each department has its unique needs. Put RBAC in place to ensure users have appropriate permissions based on their job responsibilities, reducing the risk of unauthorized access or resource misuse.
  • Automated policy enforcement — Why do it the hard way when you can automate? Use automation to apply and enforce governance policies, reducing manual intervention and minimizing errors or noncompliance.
  • Cost allocation and reporting — Viewing your total cloud spend isn’t much help when you’re looking for somewhere to cut back. Assign costs to specific departments, projects, or teams. This approach promotes accountability and helps everyone across the organization work together to manage finances.
  • Resource tagging — You need to know who is using cloud resources and for what. Implement a consistent tagging strategy to organize and track these resources, making monitoring usage, enforcing policies, and managing costs easier.

Conclusion

Nobody wants rules to get in the way of progress. But cloud governance helps protect your organization. It’s not something you can (or should) put on the back burner.

Balancing governance and productivity is vital for organizations to foster innovation and growth while maintaining security and compliance.

“By implementing guardrails instead of blockers, you create an environment where governance and autonomy co-exist, empowering teams to work efficiently and effectively.”

As the cloud continues to evolve, your approach to governance must evolve too. When you implement full cloud visibility to stay informed, your organization can reap the benefits of cloud technology while mitigating potential risks. Everyone is happy, from the bean counters who enjoy a balanced budget, to the dedicated IT security pros who avoid cleaning up another long-weekend security snafu, to the worker bees who get to see their project thrive.

To empower your teams and ensure a secure, compliant, and efficient cloud environment, learn more about navigating and nurturing cloud governance with Kion.

About the Author

Shane Quinlan

Shane is the VP of Product at Kion.

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