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Has Cloud Computing Changed the Traditional Role of IT?

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In this blog, Cloud might let users bypass IT -- For a while, Randy Steinberg of Deloitte Consulting is quoted saying that cloud computing will change the skills they need in their internal IT department. So do you think cloud computing has changed the traditional role of IT?

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  • Cloud Computing has simplified IT operations to an extent that many of the roles in IT have fundamentally been obviated. While "cloud" as it is defined might be the culmination of what was already a transition in progress over the years the point has definitely come where people can see the end state.

  • Definitely, the IT department should act as the service broker, the entity that provides services to the business and sources those services from a variety of sources. Some services will be coming from IT's own systems, some may be outsourced by hosting companies, while others may come straight from the cloud. This should be completely transparent to the user.

  • Certainly, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) will change role of IT in most organizations but I think that SaaS will have a different effect on IT in different size organizations.

    SaaS is a great equalizer. To use Salesforce as an example. Before Salesforce, serious CRM technology was the preserve of the large organization. Now, nearly everyone can afford it and, perversely, its probably the larger organizations that have the most trouble implementing it.

    This has two quite different effects on the role of IT. In SMEs, good SaaS products might delay the time before it makes strategic sense to bring technical skills in house. A twenty-person business can probably set up Salesforce themselves or with minimal help from a Salesforce consultant. Ten years ago, to get a serious CRM system would have required an internal network, servers, etc.

    For larger organizations, SaaS reduces the need to manage servers and application upgrades so the amount of system administation work might be reduced but, to make the most of a Salesforce implementation (to continue the example), it will need to be integrated with their other IT systems and these links will need to be monitored. The availability of these links will be mission critical. These skills will be in more demand.

    Obviously, some pockets of a large organization might fit the small business model. You can see the social media team in a large corporate as a SME, perfectly capable of running hoote suite, cotweet or radian6 without involving IT.

    To take advantage of these changing dynamics, both business, technical and legal leaders have to be ready for change. There are great opportunities in SaaS offerings to increase the agility of even large corporates.

  • Of course cloud computing has changed (and will continue to change) the role of IT, but not necessarily more so than previous disruptive shifts in IT have done in the past. There are two major factors at play – the technology aspect and the organizational aspect.

    On the technology side, cloud computing represents a shift from highly specialized, isolated technologies to simpler, clustered, on-demand technologies. This shift requires a corresponding change in the kinds of expertise that IT personnel possess – with less emphasis on “nuts and bolts? technical knowhow, and more emphasis on real-time service management, end-user communication and a basic understanding of the economics of cloud usage.

    On the organizational side of things, one can expect a shift from internal IT towards MSPs, as well as an overall reduction in the need for personnel for the day-to-day running of IT. This isn’t new either – we’ve seen similar shifts during the great IT outsourcing boom in the 90s.

    In short, as Yogi Berra would say: This is déjà vu all over again.


  • For me, cloud computing is using virtualized computing resources via network.

    I believe that the first half of Randy's article rarely happen, companies are more wisely and/or tightly managing their expenditures, at least in Japan.

    IT department has two major roles, providing computing platform, and providing solutions. Regarding the platform, by using cloud computing they are relieved from the burdens. Regarding solutions, basically no changes except out-of-the-box solutions, like Google Apps.

    As one of small businesses, I am setting up and testing an ERP running on a local virtual environment. And I will use one of cloud environments with the root privilege for the production ERP environment. With the ERP, what I do are basically the same, either local or cloud. I use a cloud environment, because I don't want to operate or maintain platform. Also it's easier for my accountant to use the ERP, because she is living in a remote location.

  • When we first started our business, we focused on helping IT organizations transform themselves in anticipation of the disruptive potential of SaaS and other emerging technologies. Now we find ourselves living this disruption every waking moment, and the impact on IT has been monumental. The interesting thing to me is that the doom-and-gloom predictions that IT would just go away created a lot of anxiety, but never materialized. Instead, as visionaries like the late Dr. Michael Hammer predicted, IT folks are spending less time and effort building and supporting commodity technology services, and are now applying their energy and system-driven thinking directly to the design and management of innovative cloud-based systems that enable business processes that were not even possible five years ago. The past six months have been the greatest of my professional life as I have been invited into a growing number of forward-thinking organizations that are genuinely excited about the endless possibilities of the cloud, and in almost every project, IT was in a leadership role and serving as the strongest advocates of the technology that was supposed to have rendered them obsolete by now.

  • The Cloud is changing the role of IT dramatically. It moves the IT out of the traditional Enterprise creating what I call the Cloud Enterprise. IT means equipment, software, people and their management.
    I've been working in a large company that has outsourced network, infrastructure, applications, infrastructure, helpdesk and their management all together. What's left: business planning (not exactly IT) and Architecture for Enterprise documentation and transformation. And that was before the Cloud.
    The IT moves to the Cloud and applications providers that will become suppliers of IT services.
    Adrian @ http://www.enterprise-architecture-matters.co.uk

  • Cloud computing and Cloud Apps are certainly redefining the needs for IT staff, especially within small organizations. You can now kick off a new business leveraging Cloud based Apps with very little IT knowledge (and almost 0 CAPEX). As you grow and need more integration and eventually some custom development, you will need first an IT project manager rather than a Sys Admin which can map business workflows with App integration

    Manuel@GetApp.com

  • Agree with a lot of the above comments, especially from @Christian and @MichaelT.

    With the philosophical shift to a services model (organizationally) as Christian mentions, I think that there is a change in the skills that we will value going on as well. Automation, self-provisioning infrastructure and self-service reduces the importance of traditional infrastructure and deployment oriented skills.

    But enterprise architecture (often absent from many IT organizations) and the quality of the software engineering practices employed by IT teams to develop flexible, scalable and reliable services is on the rise. And that's a good thing in my estimation.

  • To make explicit what I seem to see a lot of folks saying above -- the IT -skills- may or may not change, but that determination seems driven by how much Cloud Computing has in fact changed the way IT -systems- are delivered.

    For example, consider server consolidation pre- and post-virtualization.

    Pre-virtualization, the role of IT in consolidation was substantial; admins had to understand potential DLL conflicts between apps, loading factors, and more. Post-virtualization, consolidation was "load a bunch of VMs on, move 'em if they're overloaded".

    Similarly, I have to believe that while today's clouds require a high degree of IT sophistication Linux knowledge, etc that things will get simpler: that IT as a Service (ITaS) -- the ability to quickly create, manage, share, and track full IT environments on demand, assembled in public or privately branded marketplaces -- is what the world wants when they say "cloud", and in that sort of scenario the role of IT -doesn't- significantly change. (Who cares if the MS Exchange VM I'm configuring is hosted 200' or 200 miles away?)

    - K ( http://cloudshare.com/pro )

  • I think that cloud computing has changed the traditional role of IT, especially for SMBs. The reality is that SMBs have been on the cloud for some time now, and are the main drivers of the largest and fastest growth trajectory surrounding cloud technology. Adopting SaaS early on, many SMBs have contributed to the rapid expansion of SaaS providers like Salesforce.com. Now small and medium businesses are looking to put much of their IT into the cloud, if only for the sole reason of saving money.

    What’s more, the increasing availability of clouds have opened opportunities for small technology-oriented startups to rent virtual data centers and avoid the huge investment needed to purchase hardware, software, and rent data center space. A million dollars used to be the minimum for a start-up to prepare for its development… With the options in cloud computing today, that money can be put to better use elsewhere, facilitating the changing role of IT today.

    see http://bimehq.com/cloud-computing/smbs-cloud-computing-adoption-the-futures-bright/ for more discussion

  • I view cloud computing as another way to deal with variable demand for IT services. For many years in previous IT shops we had contract labor (on and off-shore) to deal with seasonal "bumps" in demand. In a similar fashion, cloud computing provides the pool of resources that an IT department can bring to bear to meet the demand of its business users.

    However, if cloud computing resources are made available to the business without any sort of governance then architectural chaos will ensue. You'll end up with "random acts of shopping" for not only software but hardware resources creating additional headaches for the business. Take the proliferation of Access databases and multiply it by 10.

    Cloud services in an organization should be brokered through an IT function's governance mechanisms like any other IT-related resource.

  • I think the best that cloud computing has provided where traditional IT failed is mobility to its users with matched real time information sharing among various users or you can say various departments.

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