Jason, you have my respect. Many of the articles you've written I have agreed with heartily, and I think you have a good editorial perspective on the IT industry at large. But this is one instance where I think you're living on Fantasy Island. I have been in IT in some form or another for nearly all of my adult professional life, and have been in IT solid for the last 10 years, in both a consulting capacity, as well as embedded in an organization's IT department (I WAS the department for a while). I've seen both sides of the fence, so I understand the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches, and I see where a combination approach is usually the best one. The "cloud" is a great idea, and we're using it - we have some off-site backups as part of our DR plan that we've implemented this year. I can also see small businesses moving into things like Google Docs and Office 365 for their more meager needs, but how many small and local business owners are going to be convinced when a vendor comes to them and says, "We can run Quickbooks in the cloud now, and it's more secure than it's ever been!" How many people do you honestly think are going to buy that, regardless as to whether it's true? Remember that possession is 9/10 of the law, and when you host the data on-site, even if you have a highly secured off-site backup and recovery system, at the end of the day, you still own that data free and clear because you have it in-house. Same goes for applications and app platforms - if you host them on-premises, even though you're paying for additional staff to manage those apps, you have the assurance of knowing that help will be at the ready as long as you have enough staff across enough time to cover your major support needs. You can often fudge the rest.
With cloud-based offerings, you have to make sure you read over the contracts very carefully, because SaaS and hosted environments will have to have SLA's to meet the up-time and maintenance windows that best fit your business, as well as ensuring that they can keep up with the needs of your business as your particular industry grows/changes. You have to decide whether you just wanted hosted data, hosted apps, hosted desktops, or some combination thereof. Gone is the ability to interview the people that will be providing you technical support - you just have to trust that the company you're paying for all this service is going to provide you with someone you can trust, someone who can provide good service to you and your staff, someone that can assist you with any/all issues regarding your service, and (let's be honest...) someone you can understand when you call with a problem.
Tech support is becoming increasingly off-shored, and increasingly folks who are merely reading a script versus actually troubleshooting the problem at hand. IT pros like myself who actually work in the field have seen this trend over the last several years, and though it's been frustrating, we take comfort in knowing that as long as we are still skill-building and working toward building that internal knowledge-base, we have to rely on these second-rate technical resources less than before. And when we do, like when I have to call Cisco TAC or the vendor for our large Hospital Information System software, I have already done as much homework as possible and some initial troubleshooting either with the user who has the problem, or the hardware/software experiencing the difficulty, so I can limit the amount of time I have to be on the phone with those people. Not because those hours cost my employer (they don't), but because the efficiency pays off in the long run, allowing me to do more and save the company money overall. I still need to call on consultants when things get above my pay-grade or knowledge level, but thankfully I have a pretty clear deliniation of when that is, and when I have to go outside my own IT bubble for that kind of help.
I see the value of managed services for small to mid-size businesses, because I've been in that space. It makes more sense for companies who use less overall IT to go that route because pay and bennies for a full-time IT resource doesn't add up for many small and medium businesses, even those with disparate locations. It makes sense for a business, like the one where I work, to have a strategy for outsourcing certain components of IT when it's not cost-effective to have that knowledge in-house (like networking services or IP telephony). But I think saying that we should all move toward either a consultancy, project management, or development is too narrow, when the PC era is still alive and well (despite the hype), and there will still be troglodyte users who simply can't grasp the technology they're tasked to use, and who will need a warm body who knows what they're talking about (or has the tech-savvy to figure it out). 20 years from now that may no longer be the case, as the X & Y gens replace the Boomers in the top spots, but even then I believe that internalized IT departments will be in little danger of going away in many industries, because the amount of technology used in business is only going to increase. Even as much of the technology becomes increasingly intuitive and easier to grasp, the hard truth is that there will be more of it, which means someone is going to have to support it. Will you trust that support when 90% of it is being offered by 20-somethings reading scripts who haven't even seen the technology, let alone truly worked with it? That reason alone is why IT is here to stay, and why I believe your article, however utopian, is simply not real-world applicable.
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