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The new IT Department: Staying relevant in a changing environment

With cloud computing, IT holds the power and it's time to leverage this new-found autonomy to usher in positive change.
By David Politis, BetterCloud

In an article appearing in The Wall Street Journal's CIO Journal this past fall, Rebecca Wettemann, the vice president of research at Nucleus Research, told the Journal that CIOs, "intent on protecting their turf," are often reluctant to migrate their company infrastructure to the cloud. For IT managers who've spent years racking servers and installing software, a move the cloud is daunting. All too often, IT professionals feel that running and managing on-premise systems represent job security, but fail to understand that this sense of security is only temporary. When moving to the cloud will ultimately save an organization money in the long-term, it's only a matter of time before critical systems are migrated over.

So how do IT professionals remain relevant during this transition?

Usher in and manage change

New generations of employees are already equipped with the basic knowledge and skills that were provided by IT a decade ago. IT managers should embrace this aptitude for technology and use these employees to evangelize change within the organization and generate buy-in from more skeptical workers.

Of course, affecting true change is easier said than done. IT managers will have to curate, vet, and present new technology to their organizations, winning over not only board members and C-level executives, but employees who in some cases have been using the same legacy systems for years.

IT managers should focus heavily on pinpointing company influencers, who can spread support for the move to the entire employee base. IT managers must avoid situations where migrations are held hostage by a few unwilling employees. Focusing on interpersonal relationships here is the key to gaining the buy-in and support needed to make a successful move.

Change, regardless of scale, is ineffective without proper training and it will be the IT department's role to usher in this change seamlessly. But pointing decision makers to cost savings and end-users to ease-of-use and enhanced productivity associated with cloud-based systems should make the change a little easier to bear.

Create operational efficiencies

Once your organization's decision makers and employees are on board with the transition to the cloud, it's the role of IT to construct the perfect system from a host of external providers, building custom integrations to create efficiency and allow data to flow between disparate products. Previously, on-premise systems operated in vacuums or were extremely expensive to integrate, but with today's cloud applications connecting to one another (sometimes out of the box), creating integrations and seamless flow of data across the entire infrastructure has become the mark of a truly valuable IT professional.

As IT transitions to a supply chain model, it's also vitally important to build relationships with third-party providers, who now store company data previously maintained in-house. The advent of cloud computing has brought with it a host of powerful third-party solutions that compete with legacy and enterprise stalwarts often at a lower price. Variety, though beneficial from a cost perspective, clutters the market with dozens of choices where once there were only a few, so proper appraisal and research is the key to finding the best solution for your organization.

Rather than focusing on physically building and maintaining systems, IT professionals must hone their development skills and gain expertise working with, stitching together, and integrating APIs so disparate applications can effectively communicate and coordinate tasks with one another. Staying up to date with the latest API releases and devising new integrations will prove beneficial in the new IT department.

Rethink internal practices and delegate responsibility

Now that your organization has migrated to the cloud and you've successfully integrated the different aspects of your IT infrastructure, it's the job of IT to remain ahead of emerging trends and keep up with the latest cloud applications. Point solutions like Google Docs, lightweight CRMs, and email productivity applications are probably already in use by your organization's early adopters. These solutions, while beneficial to individual users, could bring tremendous efficiency, both in terms of cost-savings and productivity, to your entire organization. Presenting solutions that will help users on a daily basis builds trust, making additional changes down the road easier to swallow.

IT is also faced with managing and provisioning access to the dozens of cloud applications accumulated during the cloud migration. Implementing enterprise cloud identity solutions to facilitate access to these applications will save time for both the IT department and end-users in the long run. Moreover, delegating certain responsibilities to department heads will lighten the load on IT. For instance, your marketing automation system should be assigned to and subsequently owned by the Director of Marketing. The same can be said for your CRM and Sales Director. As long as the proper controls are put in place, ceding some control is advantageous.

Bottom line

The role of IT is indeed changing, but with so many new solutions to audit, systems to engineer and users to train, the IT department has never been more vital to an organization. The IT manager now sits in the driver seat with hundreds of solution providers competing for his or her attention. And when delivered correctly, these solutions have the opportunity to change an organization for the better by increasing efficiency and collaboration, cutting costs, and reshaping corporate culture. IT now holds the power and it's time to leverage this new-found autonomy to usher in positive change.

David Politis is the founder and CEO of BetterCloud, the maker of FlashPanel, the number one cloud management tool for Google Apps, and the Google Apps resource site, AsktheGooru.com. Follow him @DavePolitis.

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20 comments
mwclarke1
mwclarke1

Sorry, but for many large organizations and for many who has several specialized computing needs, a cloud service will not have any ROI, or be impracticable to use. There are many applications that tend to be heavy in bandwidth, the cost of supplying that bandwidth to a could based service may not be practice. There are also several security concerns, especially in the financial sector, where PCI, SOX, SAS70, etc requires diligent controls and mitigation's, and hosting to a cloud service will not defer those in any way from the responsibility of the data owner. there is a whole lot of IT that will never, or anytime soon, migrate to a cloud. A lot of manufacturing being automated, controlled via technology requires a lot of local computing, database, storage that does not lend itself to the cloud. Even larger enterprises would be reluctant to have any significant response issues when 1000,s of employees try to open large spreadsheets over a cloud based app (my company tested several and just did not come close to the the performance of local applications). For many smaller companies that the amount of IT does not warrant a full staff/systems may benefit more so on cloud based services, companies that only have limited back office applications and/or can host their e-commerce outside of their current infrastructure. Cloud services is nothing new, once was called application hosting/provider services, someone looked at a network diagram and the Internet was the cloud, so became a buzzword for anything on the Internet. Yes some things can go to a cloud based service, but not everything.

WZ17
WZ17

Cloud computing actually saving money is arguable at best. Microsoft Office would not move to a subscription service if it not did earn more in the long run. Cloud solutions do not seamlessly integrate with existing environments and for the products that do, they increase complexity. Hosted Exchange is not only expensive, you get a crap interface and limited features.

rustys
rustys

Pure self centred propoganda. Why do all these evangelists cry that we must move to the cloud? Easy - because THEY control it and they make money off it. Sure they can offer cheaper services based on sheer numbers and the cost advantages. However, the instant a client has issues with being unable to work they point at the ISPs and say it is their fault so we are not liable for losses involved. Me, I prefer to have my clients data onsite - where they can use it without worrying about shonky internet access. For a large client that can afford dedicated data lines (fibre preferably) it is something I would entertain - but it would be on servers controlled by someone I knew and trusted.

zamajama
zamajama

On one edge, the cloud a.k.a. managed services, can take away all of those hardware and enterprise software maintenance headaches and when something goes wrong it'll be handled by your dedicated service provider. Service providers though have to be solvent of course, and in some cases you'll find out really quick that you may not be their high priority client as you may think you should, but the bigger of the managed service provider's clients may take precedence over your company - and they'll get to your issue, when they get to it. Not good for your company's bottom line as it looses thousands of dollars a minute while critical managed services are inaccessible and there is nothing the in-house IT folk can do about it. Need we say anything about jobs being eliminated to save on payroll?

nzjade
nzjade

Cloud computing is here and a Corporate storm of support for it is coming ... adapt!. Until C3P0 is handling the support their is an opportunity for all techs to use their initiative\creativity to bring forth ideas within their realm to be a leader for the changes. The Cloud concept will continually evolve ... the sky above is the same Clouds come and go what one does is 'adapt'

christop095
christop095

Please show us the numbers to how the cloud makes sense? For specialized applications maybe but outsourcing to the cloud is almost never the right thing to do. Corporate it needs do not the cloud does not scale well. For instance, dropbox would cost 12k per year. For a 12k investment, I can have my own SAN and save those otherwise residual expenses. Another example is cloud emaill. For the same price, I can have in house exchange, a san and vmware environment with cloud backup.

lcave
lcave

Cloud Computing -- keep it! Cloud computing requires a great deal of support. End Users and non-technical by in to the marketing hype and are sorely disappointed when applications in the cloud are not as seamless as purported originally. In fact, they are not seamless at all.

kdm1958
kdm1958

Business needs should drive technology strategy, not the other way around. How many of us have been approached by a senior executive who has just read a piece like this, asking when we are going to adopt this (xyz) technology, with no idea of what it actually is or does.

henryb
henryb

from Tech Republic disguised as information. This "guest contributor" is a salesman with an agenda. I won't bother reading this piece. Personally, I'm getting tired of Tech Republic informercials. I used to find real information here, but those pieces have been replaced by crap like this article and countless company sponsored "white papers" that have little value. Keep it up Tech Republic - I'm on the verge of unsubscribing. Your emails are starting to look a lot like SPAM!

jwrightsman
jwrightsman

I find the tech writer is now a salesman pushing the next money maker for their bosses boss. Cloud has good points but is not for everyone and for small to medium IT shops it is not always a given to be more cost effective or better for the business. But shame on you if you do not agree. An IT deparment that is creative and willing to put some effort into building a solid long term business driven strategy so most decisions move towards that target are more effecive in building business opportunities. After all, making money is most businesses primary goal.

CACASEY
CACASEY

As can be expected from a CEO pushing his view of the world, Mr. Politis' guest contribution paints a blue-sky vision of the future in which his "cloud" plays a prominent role. With sweeping generalizations like "New generations of employees are already equipped with the basic knowledge and skills that were provided by IT a decade ago." and "Now that your organization has migrated to the cloud and you’ve successfully integrated the different aspects of your IT infrastructure, ...", the arrogance (or perhaps ignorance) of the writer with respect to the reality of today's mid and large size corporate IT organizations is readily apparent. The phrase "head in the clouds" comes to mind.

mail2ri
mail2ri

It is not the IT Dept but the business which needs to identify and recognize the fact that IT is no longer merely a 'Cost-centre', as it is often considered, but can be a crucial business enabler. In my experience in the corporate sector for almost two decades, I have seen IT Depts (actually metamorphose from the traditional 'EDP Dept' to a more appropriate 'IT Dept') transform themselves into change managers and business enablers by function. However, it is amazing still how many large corporates still treat their IT Depts as a 'cost-centre' denying them their fair share as internal business partners in these highly tech-driven business environment. Many corporates still stuck in stone age organizational structures have their IT Heads report to the CFO (Finance Head) rather than the CEO. Unless IT is considered as a distinct function capable of contributing to and enhancing operational efficiency and innovation for greater business impact, corporates will continue to waste their important IT resources, and perhaps lose their brightest minds to competitors or others who value their true worth.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Ask the business we are a department of.... They dictate long term strategy, sometimes it can get up to whole month in advance you know..

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you embraced the changes cloud computing and virtualization present or are you resisting? Do you think that is the best long-term strategy?

steeevin
steeevin

The rush to the cloud reminds me of the rush to offshore IT a decade ago. It was supposed to be this huge cost savings. As many of you know, the costs savings didn't work out as expected, and the quality of service was severely impacted. Hence, companies started pulling things back in-house. I suspect cloud will go though the same cycle.

rduncan
rduncan

however posts like this one http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/datacenter/rackspace-openstack-and-evolving-cloud-standards/5531?tag=content;siu-container have had no interest whatsoever. so I can see why it's difficult for TR to get an angle on Cloud that everyone is going to read, it I had any recommendations it would be stick with the open source articles, open nerbula, OpenStack, Eucalyptus, Cato, Libvirt, Xen, KVM, maybe some how to hybrid cloud articles, the EC2 api, security especially around openssl and theses are all going to be very much in vouge, but stop trying to sell stuff

MyopicOne
MyopicOne

Most of the users that have the "basic knowledge and skills that were provided by IT a decade ago" can't keep their home environments reasonably secure and recoverable, much less their work environments. Yes, this article is nothing more than a shill's marketing...

IBMC
IBMC

In Researching Business Environments, Infrastructures, Functions since 1996 I had come to the realisation that Admin is in fact a process that expands through various functions in various departments and has no purpose as a whole as a type of management and therefore where Admin was previously a manual process in an Archival System it is now interwoven in Information Technology as it is channeled across Departments due to Infrastructure consisting of Computer Systems to enhance the Input of Information to the Output and that relies on all Individuals involved. Without Information Technology we will have to revert to manual processes and that will prevent us from analysing Hindsight, Insight, Foresight in the Past, Present, Future at the touch of but 1 button!

wtburnette67
wtburnette67

Very well said! I get so tired of being told IT has to make the case when it's the business that needs to change their perception of IT. IT has done a great job of transforming in the last few years and business needs to recognize that fact.

RobertFL
RobertFL

Well said! It does infact produce income, but it does this with internal clients which is not the same as the internal clients generating icome with external clients. The only way for corporate to see this is by asking them to operate without IT. Then and only then will they see just how much IT contributes to the bottom line. How sad is it that this is true.

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