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How will cloud computing change the IT department?

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Awhile ago I asked if the cloud will allow smaller companies to do away with the IT department, but aside from such a drastic outcome, what are some other ways do you think the cloud will change the IT department and the duties of the CIO?

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  • I hope this question doesnt lead to people getting carried away with outlandish claims that the cloud will make.

    Essentially I don't see in house IT departments changing that much. Sure some may shrink as skills are not needed due to some apps etc running in the cloud. However, with good cloud based apps, there will still be a need for IT support, there will still be a need for desktop support, there will still need to be an IT department to address issues with the cloud provider. And lets not forget, many processes, solutions and applications wont make it to the cloud, and these will remain in house...

    so the big change. Not a drastic one, just one of scaling down somewhat and raising efficiency...

  • First, and foremost, the IT department will become the keeper of the Service Level Agreement (SLA). Whereas before, they provided the services (and, unfortunately, did little to manage to a specific level), part of going to the cloud is the guarantee of service, which someone will need to ensure is met.

    So, the good news is, new job for IT.

    The not so good news for IT departments is that cloud technologies does require greater breadth and less depth, whereas today's data centers require more individuals with greater depth and very focused on a particular area (e.g. telecom, storage, etc.). For current IT individuals, getting into training programs now to expand their breadth of understanding of cloud technologies is imperative to being employed in the IT department of the future.

    Hopefully, the CIOs role shouldn't change at all, even though we know in many organizations it will. The CIO is the keeper of the data and the systems that operate on that data, not the cloud visionary. Where the data and systems reside should be a business decision, not a technical one and the CIO should have been making these decisions all along.

  • The CIO is now provided another flexible resource to bring to bear in delivering value to the enterprise. Prior to the advent of cloud computing, IT departments have been using staff augmentation (contractors) to fill seasonal or skill-based gaps within their organization. Its a flexible, external resource made available to the enterprise. Need a few more Java engineers for a short project? Call up the local contracting firm and bring in some fresh Java faces to deliver a project.

    Cloud computing is very similar in some aspects. Its a flexible resource that can be used on-demand when needed w/o using the freight elevator. And in some cases, no additional contracts are needed...just dial in the extra CPU and/or disk.

    I think the CIO has a new responsibility to "get out in front" of any procurement activity within corporations. Random acts of shopping by LOB leaders may result in cloud resources being procured w/o the blessing of the CIO. I think this is a recipe for disaster. Any and all computing resources need to be governed by the CIO/Architecture Board for an enterprise. Otherwise, the fragmentation and entropy that plagues so many IT shops will extend into the cloud where there is even less control.

  • The shift to the cloud has already had a profound impact on many of the IT organizations that I've worked with in the past several years. The descriptive analysis:

    * IT is no longer the team that engages us as the "front door" to the organization, even on projects that will require significant technical design work. I am seeing in 90% of our engagements that we are being engaged directly by the line of business closest to the business problem that needs to be solved.

    * I can neatly split IT's involvement into two camps when it comes to project participation - cheerleaders and heel-draggers. When IT comes into a project not only fully aligned with the vision and objectives of the business, but speaking the same language of the business and even serving as business advocates, you can almost feel electricity in the air as the entire project team drives towards a common goal...it's like the specific technology just becomes an asterisk and IT takes a leadership role in the design of complex processes and systems rather than getting entrenched in the 1's and 0's. On the other hand, when I see IT as reluctant survivalists in an organization, their participation has become a fairly predictable pattern - show up late to the project kickoff meeting with pissed off looks on their faces, alternating between disinterestedly flipping through the pages of the project documentation and scanning through email on their Blackberries (because God forbid we should ever allow iPhones or other modern mobile devices on our secure network), and then either not returning after a break or making a staged dramatic exit to rush off to put out the fire-du-jour; then, after two weeks of the rest of the project team building positive momentum, IT will email us a 172 page "standards" document that cloud technology can never possibly live up to because it mandates the use of technology and architectural patterns that are outdated by a minimum of 5 years...the project then goes into perpetual swirl, and IT "wins" because the disruptive cloud technology is kept at bay until the next round.

    The prescriptive analysis:

    * As @JP mentions, IT becomes the keeper of the SLAs and manages the service portfolio, but the role of IT also becomes more profound in that technical folks think technically...we can see order in chaos and complexity. This ability to think systematically will become the bedrock of IT's role in larger organizations, as system and process design will be even more important in the cloud era, the shift however is in the fact that IT will be designing highly abstracted systems that assemble myriad services provided outside of the walls of the company.

    * The entire concept of IT as the provisioner of devices and connectivity goes away. The (take this with as much gender neutrality as possible) "IT Guy" that crawls around under your desk setting up your new Windows "box" or "laptop" gets replaced by the Apple Store or Best Buy. The consumerization of IT accelerates in the coming years, IT will no longer dictate what devices you can or can't use, but instead will have to shift focus to enabling company employees and partners to access information anytime and anywhere, obviously in a way that upholds the privacy and security requirements of the organization.

    Mike

  • I have a more simplistic view - No change.

    IT (and CIOs) have always had one primary objective of ensuring that IT is aligned with and is a part of the business. That objective was true "pre cloud" and remains true "post cloud".

    So, will cloud make IT more efficient - yes, will it help scale better - yes, will it reduce operating costs - yes, BUT will it change the function or duties of IT?

    NO.

  • In the end, the IT department will consist of an EA function that maintains the business/apps architecture and specifies strategy, a small Operation function to oversee service delivery and a programme management function to control solution architecture/projects deliveries. All these functions would be focused on business deliveries rather than IT.

  • The focus of the IT organization will shift from acquiring, deploying and managing HW and SW to evaluating, contracting and monitoring the performance of Cloud service providers to ensure they properly integrate and enhance their on-premise operations. This should reduce the time they spend on day-to-day firefights and free them to focus on more strategic initiatives. This may sound like a cliche, but I'm talking to IT people regularly who are helping their SBUs employ Cloud solutions to achieve their business objectives and foster greater innovation.

  • Cloud offers a number of benefits. The most immediate value being commoditization. By “outsourcing” more tactical aspects of IT departments to the Cloud, in-house employees can re-focus on more strategic, business-driven, innovation type initiatives and get the maintenance and operations tasks off their plate. I see the “IT Department” evolving into this type of innovator role, especially when you consider how much of IT’s annual budget is allocated to pure operations and sustainment (average 50-80%). Take that tactical stuff to the Cloud, and re-allocate employees to more value-driven tasks.

  • Well, Cloud opens up the IT department. If your IT department feels like a feudal lord that always has the last word over every other department for deployments and stuff, the presence and availability of clouds will surely be a humbling experience as it does foster innovations (as well as crazy ideas).

    The sensible approach is for the IT department to keep one eye to keeping IT at it's efficient and secure best while at the same time be on constant lookout for innovations in the cloud space - a hybrid mix of skills that will serve them well into their future.

  • Most answers already provided are pretty exhaustive. I also think that cloud provides another lever for IT to deliver better business value. The build v/s buy decisions at business as well as IT level open up completely with SaaS and IaaS.

    When you look at PaaS though, the situation is going to get even more intriguing. I wrote some time back on my blog that IT & businesses would start realizing the true potential of cloud / PaaS, and start exploiting the huge advantage that it offers – the ability to decouple the Platform Engineering, Platform Governance and Platform Implementation.

    http://ashishbhagwat.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/the-new-role-of-it-from-cost-center-to-business-platform-provider/

    With APaaS, we will have the technological ingredients for the “White collar developers” or “citizen developers” to develop the applications while core IT can focus on the delivery and governance over underlying platforms. While I still see that IT will, for some time to come, control the buying and maintenance of such platforms, the key to their success also lies in the understanding that they need to focus on the role of platform Engineering and Governance, and facilitate the business value driven applications development.

    IT will (should!) become a Business Platform Provider and facilitate Business Value, cloud will enable that.

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