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.
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.