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Managing the change to cloud service broker: The work shifts left, the skill sets rise


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By Joshua Brusse


In an era of tremendous change, I think the biggest evolution that IT organizations have to go through is the fact that a lot of the things they're doing now are not needed, or will be needed in a different form. As old IT tasks such as incident and change management become more governance functions, new challenges—managing catalogs, portfolios, and business relationships—are vital. In short, IT will have to both unlearn and learn a lot.

I see this most clearly when helping organizations make the shift from a service provider, making and managing the IT services it delivers, to a cloud service broker that integrates core in-house competencies with services it sources externally. (You can see a good explanation in this cloud service broker video.)


Why you need to manage organizational change in the move to cloud service broker

Organizations don't make this change lightly. They do it because they realize it's a do-or-die evolution. IT cannot afford to create services that can be more cheaply and effectively sourced through the cloud. Many orgs get the first two steps right: They'll have a vision of how they're going to transform, and a blueprint for what the IT department will look like when it's over. But even with solid planning, many stumble on a core aspect of execution: communicating the change to their team members, and guiding them through it.

This is not only crucial to successful outcomes, it's the source of the most pain in the actual transformative process. You're not only announcing change, you're explaining a new outlook. And two things you must communicate are the fundamental nature of this shift to service broker, and the fundamental difference in the skills team members must bring to the table. Managing this organizational change is key to making a smooth transition without a significant loss in productivity. (You can learn more by downloading this report from Frost & Sullivan: Helping IT Transform: The Rise of Organizational Change Management Services.)


Your needs shift left, your talent rises up

The traditional IT org's work flow is Plan → Build → Run, handling nearly all the effort in all three stages. As IT becomes a service broker, most of the “Run” and much of the “Build” are sourced externally. So you can see that this shifts resources to the left of that workflow, meaning that you'll need more people whose competencies fall in the “Plan” phase, and fewer who do the hands-on work of building and running your IT.

That's the workflow. Let's talk about skill sets. We can think of your staff's roles in a stack of three layers:

  • Above the line: Engaging with the business to understand its current and future needs, to know which services IT should deliver, and how the business can best access and consume them.
  • On the line: Orchestration work, including supplier selection, management, and measurement, covering contracts, SLAs, and more.
  • Below the line: The creation and maintenance of services hosted within the data center.

In the broker's world, the “below the line” role is significantly diminished, while “above” and “on” become much more important. It's essential that leaders effectively communicate both the “shift left” in needs and the “rise up” in roles.


Communication and internalization

With the vision and plan in place, you have to share them with your IT team, and make sure everyone understands where the organization, and the roles within it, are going. Change makes everyone uncomfortable, and often people (leaders and line workers both) hide from it. There are hard realities here that can, once again, be broken into three categories:

  • Some roles will require skills you don't have anywhere in your IT organization.
  • For some roles, you won't have the perfect fit in-house, but you'll have good candidates to train into the position.
  • Some roles will be phased out, and the people performing them might not have interest or aptitude for roles within the new broker model. Often an enterprise will help transition those people to the third-party vendors that will provide those noncore services.

From the start, you'll see workers step forward to volunteer for new roles and for training opportunities. Other workers will be too heads-down in the work to contemplate the future, or too shy to step forward. It's a leader's job to identify them and discuss their opportunities in the new organization. And team members have to embrace the changes and grow in their roles or look elsewhere. I've seen workers resist, even try to undermine, this transformation, and they've only delayed the inevitable—and made it worse for themselves.


How leadership manages the transformation

The overall principle in managing change from service provider to service broker is to communicate. Have a solid vision of what your transformed organization will be, and communicate that to business stakeholders and to your IT team. Be very open to your team's fears, concerns and ambitions, and do your best to make the transition smooth for everyone—your business customers and your IT staff.

Managing internal communication is key to helping organizations make this change, and I've never seen the shift to service brokerage succeed without strong, communicative leadership.


To learn more, check out this video on Cloud Service Broker. Or find out what analyst firm Frost & Sullivan has to say about managing change in its report, Helping IT Transform: The Rise of Organizational Change Management Services.


Joshua headshot.jpg

Joshua Brusse is Chief Architect, Asia Pacific and Japan, HPE Software Services. He writes frequently about leadership, management of organizational change, cloud, and IT Service Management. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaBrusse.



Related Links:

HPE Software Management of Change Services

Blog post: 3 ways leaders can help organizations manage change

Blog post: For a successful IT transformation, manage the 3 stages of organizational change

Blog post: Leading people through the 4 stages of change

Blog post: Managing the 4 stages that teams go through when they face change

Blog post: Best practices for effective communication for organizational change




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