A few months ago, we sat down with a long-time customer who was interested in moving to the cloud. The head of IT was at the lunch gathering and started off the conversation with the following comment, “I just want y’all to know that I am NOT behind this project nor this direction. I cannot be behind a proposal which will remove the need for my job.” I’m sure many cloud conversations have had comments like this. Luckily, based on our industry experience, we were able to paint the picture of what this IT Director’s role would look like after the on-boarding to our Cloud. After we had this conversation, the IT Director said “I didn’t realize that was what I could be doing after this transition. I am 100% in support of this project.” Without getting into the nitty-gritty details of the conversation, here were the themes of our conversation, and it could be the themes of a conversation with your IT Leader.
What we first had to battle were some of the assumptions about Cloud. Many of these assumptions weren’t 100% right, or painted a picture much different than the reality we have experienced. First of all, there is an assumption that Cloud means a significant reduction in IT headcount, especially at the top. This is NOT a requirement for a positive ROI. It’s a business decision, but companies larger than 50 generally need at least one person on-site to continue to deliver to their users specific services that are not cost effective to outsource. In addition, the skills of IT Leadership are necessary in many other areas of the business, especially given the industry and tribal knowledge contained in their brains. IT Leaders can continue to be useful in business-facing roles based on their industry and the tribal knowledge gained during their tenure (discussed later).
Second, some people think a Cloud solution will limit the software options available to the business. The software industry is actually moving towards more and more packages architected for the cloud, so this is becoming less of an issue all the time. Similarly, we have a few clients who installed applets to help with a business process or report, and thus do not want to lose that functionality by using a cloud desktop. Often times though, we find the user didn’t know of the functionality of an existing software installed across the company. The IT Director and his team can view this as an opportunity to show new features across the organization, and the IT Leader is in the best position to demonstrate these features to the entire business, and save the day.
NOTE: Some of our clients have applets which are not designed for the cloud. This can become an issue during the sales/implementation process. One industry known for applets is the legal industry. For more on that topic, see our section “Funny stories from the field”).
Many of the benefits of moving to the Cloud have been described very well over the last few years. Generally speaking, a Cloud-based infrastructure provides a more mature service delivery model and a higher level of security than many organizations can afford to build into their in-house IT infrastructure. The Cloud can also reduce the cost impact of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, and can even offer an overall lower cost of IT operations, particularly if the organization is facing a major hardware infrastructure refresh.
These benefits are great, but there also are a number of future-state benefits that will help improve the organization. The IT Leader has the skills that will complement in-flight and future projects designed to increase data availability, improve business processes and provide more analytical reporting. The first skill that will be needed (and can be delivered by the IT Leadership) is effective vendor management. When your technology is no longer a box in a closet, but a stream of information being piped-in through a data-line, the skills for managing the service and the relationship become much more important. These skills include contract management, service bundling, negotiation skills, remaining informed of technology trends, and assessing risk, among others.
Another skill needed by the company will be planning for large projects. Before the transition to the cloud, many of the organization’s IT projects required significant planning for timeline, resources, costs, and risk mitigation – skills that were provided by IT Leadership. These skills are readily re-deployable (and VERY needed) within the business user community.
The business community can benefit from an IT Leader’s perspective on technology enhancements on native software expansion projects. Having an IT resource to identify a business requirement that will increase the cost by 25%, or increase the timeline by 6 months is invaluable in the early-stage project discussions. While many of the applications and products available to business are standardizing their offerings, these impacts still occur on home-grown applications. The presence of an IT Leader will provide immediate value by increasing IT’s presence and input into current business projects.
We’re not alone in this thinking. In fact, the consulting firm Deloitte issued a report (covered by the Wall Street Journal) identifying the roles/skills that will benefit. “IT leaders at Enterasys, Aricent, and UCSF say business demand for their services is increasing, and the move to cloud computing is allowing their IT organizations to focus on “value-added” activities like high-end software development, business analytics, enterprise architecture, and strategic vendor relationship management.” Source.
The net impact of the move to the cloud isn’t necessarily a reduction in the IT resources (especially the leaders), but a change in the needs of technology knowledge workers. So when you think about it, “Cloud” is good news for IT Leaders and resources, so long as you want to work with the business on higher value projects and increase your own brand and skills.
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