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The changing role of IT as cloud takes off


Let's assume cloud DOES take off - how does this change what IT does?

Let's assume that public cloud IaaS services become trusted - they offer SLAs that are acceptable to us for both performance and recovery of our key apps. Let's also assumed that we get to trust their security, backup, and compliance. Let's also assume that SaaS services continue to grow (to $250billion by 2020, as Forrester predicts). Let's also assume that there are integration services (cloud services) so that integrating these SaaS offerings into our business processes becomes easy.


What will IT do then? We can SaaS most of our non-core applications like expenses and travel and much of the infrastructure and programming platforms used by our core applications is provided by the public cloud.


Moving from "keeping the lights on" to becoming a key contributor to business projects

I believe the role of IT will change as a result. Gartner estimates that currently 70% of IT budget goes on "keeping the lights on". If cloud providers are doing much of this work, I believe that this will free up IT to become a part of the business. Not "a partner to the business", but PART of the business.


I've been "in the business" all my working life. As and architect and as a product manager, I've worked on many products. I've also worked with people in HP who are part of business processes - support, contracts and so on.


And in all those 31 years, I've never seen or heard from an IT person. No one from IT has come to me or my colleagues and said, "let me help you with IT systems that will make you more efficient and/or more competitive". I'm pretty sure that most business processes and products could, however, be improved thru the injection of IT help.


How wonderful it is to have IT on your team

Never, that is, until the current project I'm involved in.


It's a crowd sourcing project. And we've been allocated an IT presto help us with our crowd sourcing platform. It is just fantastic. He has made a series of suggestions for things we never thought we could do. He has given us a schedule so that we know exactly when we have to deliver what in order to be live in time for HP DISCOVER in Vegas. And in doing this, he has opened up crowd sourcing possibilities for other teams.


I can't overstate what a fabulous contribution this IT person has made to the team. 


The project team of the future will have an IT person on it from the start

This, I believe, is the IT of the future. Projects will have IT people allocated to them. These projects could be for new products and services. Or, they could be for business process improvement efforts. I was recently on a course with other managers in the UK. Every single one believed that their business process could be improved, and all involved changes to IT in order to make those improvements.


What tools will IT need in the future?

What tools will these new IT people need? The business deals in business processes. As cloud provides more of the "blocks of work" in business processes, IT will need tools that orchestrate existing blocks of cloud functionality. As I noted above, well also need integration services so that data can flow across the business process.


IT will need tools to create user experience. Sure, business process modelling tools can give you a first pass user interface, but we need to make the user experience compelling, and probably multi-device.


We'll need tools that can create and run tests from the business process and user experience definitions.


And IT will need tools that allow them to mine the data from the business process and the surrounding social interactions. Yes, the business puts increasing value in the social interaction around products and services - how is my product trending? who is the emerging competition? what are people's main problems with my product? have people found ways of hacking it, thus stopping my revenue stream?


What skills will IT need in the future?

We also may need to retrain our IT staff. This new role will require people who have skills in business process design, user experience design, and data mining. They will also need to have an understanding of the business of the team with which they will work.


But, the business (marketing especially) is all over the place !!

Anyone in IT knows that "the business is all over the place". If we allocated IT resource to each business project that was started up, we'd soon run out of IT specialists. So, we have to put in place a strategic request system to holistically and quickly rank the requests from the business. Many of our customers already do this for enhancement requests to business applications - "can we have an iPad version? can we link to LinkedIn?" and so on.


I don't believe in the death of IT - I believe in IT increasing its value to the business

I've read a number if articles predicting the death of the IT department should cloud take off. I disagree. You can't run a competitive business by just taking a bunch of SaaS offerings. Differentiation is built, in part, thru business processes, thru customer experience, and thru the quality and timeliness of the data mined from these. These things are custom built - if they were available to everyone, they wouldn't be unique and thus, wouldn't differentiate. I believe this is where that IT of the future will make it's mark.


But, we ALL need to be measured and rewarded on the same business goals

Finally, a word on goals and rewards. I've been working with a number of ex-CIOs on training for our sales force. These CIOs tell me, repeatedly, that if IT wants to be part of the business (and they think it should), then it must also sign up and be measured against the same goals as the business. I know that IT won't control everything to do with achieving the business goals, but the same is true for me in marketing. I'm targeted with business goals over which I don't have total control. So, the IT person in our crowd sourcing project should be measured in on its business success on the same way I am. You can't be a part of a team if you are "involved but not committed".

Mike Shaw
Director Strategic Marketing

linkedin.gifMike Shaw

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About the Author


Mike has been with HPE for 30 years. Half of that time was in research and development, mainly as an architect. The other 15 years has been spent in product management, product marketing, and now, strategic marketing. .

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