General contractors are no longer using the same materials and methods to construct their buildings (imagine if they were still using asbestos-‐ridden materials!), and the use of these new materials requires the understanding and evolution of work skills.
In a similar fashion, the establishment and rapid adoption of cloud computing technologies has changed the way IT professionals perform their jobs, whether working for a multinational financial corporation or a small hosting solutions provider.
How has the transformation of cloud computing affected the skills required for IT workers? How can companies adapt to this change?
The old IT skills that kept the industry going over the past few decades are becoming increasingly outdated—pushed out of the way by newer, faster technology. In fact, cloud computing is revolutionary within the entire IT industry, not only because it provides a unique solution with a variety of affordable price options, but because it promotes a change of the IT role within the organization itself.
In years previous, applications and storage data have resided in a large, in-house data center run by a large number of skilled IT workers. Now, these applications and other information can be placed in the cloud, an enigmatic server located in a data center ten or even a hundred miles away.
You no longer need a Chief Information Officer (CIO) and an allocated budget to incorporate a Cloud Hosting solution into your IT infrastructure; today, business managers, who may or may not have IT experience, can set up and maintain a cloud account while saving the company copious amounts of money.
Perhaps one of the largest changes for a company’s IT department is that the cloud requires workers to prioritize what skills they need to obtain in order to keep the infrastructure running steady.
According to Steve Ranger, writer at ZDNet, “the use of cloud computing can do away with much of the software maintenance and patching that made up a chunk of the average IT professional’s day, forcing IT departments to adopt a more customer-‐ focused role.”
John Linkous, Chief Security and Compliance officer at eIQnetworks, a Massachussetts-‐based compliance solutions provider, says, “Internal IT teams still need to manage some infrastructure, even when they have cloud application access.
So in that sense, I don’t foresee the traditional, technical IT management completely going away, even in organizations which have deep cloud integration.”
So, even though the role of IT department employees is changing and workers need to be able to adapt to this change, previous skills are still necessary to understand the premise of each company’s already set up architecture.
The easy availability and overall cost-‐effectiveness that cloud services provide mean that instead of provisioning and administering professional services themselves, the new role of the IT department is to analyze and match up their company’s respective business needs with the services provided by potential external cloud vendors according to Richard Watson, director at Sheffield Haworth.
“Traditional ‘sysadmin’ skills will inevitably be in less demand in the future . . . managing the relationship between the business and its suppliers will become ever more crucial,” he says.
Sadly, in some industries, IT departments have already begun to disappear. Additionally, it has become more common to see server workloads moved over and managed by third-‐party vendors who have the skills and resources necessary to handle such large-‐scale IT infrastructures. Instead of paying for in-‐house IT workers, companies can utilize cloud hosting providers for all of their necessary services, and save money while doing so.
In industries where the IT department has not yet completely fizzled away and moved into a professional data center, traditional worker roles are merging with and sometimes being replaced by generalists and service delivery managers.
Less emphasis is being placed on the terms “IT services” and more is being put on the words “business services.” In particular, the focus is being placed upon what these services can deliver back to the company in terms of time and money. In essence, these so-‐called IT generalists are now doing what once IT specialists could do.
According to Duncan James, infrastructure manager at Clarion Solicitors, a United Kingdom-‐based law firm, “The biggest value of the IT department [today] is their knowledge of the existing setup—specifically the dependencies of how software X interacts with software Y.”
He goes on to say, “Every setup is different, and being able to hammer the software into the shape is ultimately a skill that the cloud will never be able to offer, at least for now.”
So, to summarize, the IT department still has a role within a company due to the fact that they cannot be completely replaced by complex and intelligent machines, but the role and responsibilities of IT workers have drastically changed as companies continue to adopt the technologies offered by the cloud.
Few organizations will replace their entire infrastructure with the cloud, so a variety of skills are required. Also, a human touch is still very much required in order to handle technical issues and to ensure that the cloud is an appropriate solution.
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