This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Business Agility, sponsored by IBM. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Business Agility site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

IT Jobs and the Cloud

When the IT department moves to the cloud, IT jobs won't necessarily disappear, but they will change.

When IT embraces the cloud, jobs won't necessarily go away, but they will change. IT staffers will be adding business value instead of plugging holes between silos.

As businesses at all levels plan how to move to the cloud -- and if yours hasn't begun yet, it will soon enough -- IT staffers are worried about what their jobs will become. Some are even worried what will become of their jobs. (Though if a recent survey of IT employee attitudes toward the satisfaction, security, and stress level of their jobs is to be believed, only 12 percent are seriously worried about losing their positions.)

A trio of blog posts outlines what the career landscape might look like after a corporation begins its increasing reliance on cloud provisioning. CIO.com has an interview with Greg Pierce, cloud strategy officer at the IT consultant and integrator Tribridge. Pierce advises IT staff to embrace the coming of the cloud as an opportunity to expand their skill set. Companies should communicate early and often about the plans for employee training, redeployment, or whatever the case may be, according to Pierce. Retraining should have an emphasis on project management and interpersonal communication, because those skills will be in demand as IT staffers deal increasingly with both internal business users and the cloud provider(s).

Over at Tom's IT Pro, in two blog posts, cloud consultant and architect Trevor Williamson offers a more detailed roadmap to adjustments in both job roles and operational and procedural systems as a company moves toward the cloud.

Silos and holes
If we squint at the structure of many existing IT organizations, Williamson contends in the first post, what we will see is a bunch of silos: application development, engineering, operations, analytics, and so on. The hand-off points between these silos Williamson calls "holes," and notes that usually people are plugged in to fill them -- to do the connective tasks such as moving data between applications, installing software, and approving requests for provisioning. Often these hole-filling assignments are positioned as a temporary stop-gap until a more suitable solution can be put in place, but this rarely happens. Over time, friction and errors creep into these stop-gap, manual processes, which slow progress toward business goals.

In Williamson's perspective, a large part of the payback from moving to the cloud comes from replacing the stop-gap human roles with automation and orchestration (i.e., the assembly of sequences of automated tasks: workflows). But as this occurs, all of the systems under IT's purview need to be re-evaluated with an eye towards that modern mantra, doing more with less. Systems and procedures that evolved when the normal way of doing business was plugging people into holes have to evolve in step with more efficient ways of provisioning and offering services.

In this transition, people are freed up to take on roles of greater direct value to the business, Williamson writes in the second post. As the company moves to the cloud, people aren't replaced; activities are. And with new roles and responsibilities must come a new operational infrastructure that aligns with them.

This means service level agreements (SLAs), which become not only the way of defining how business services are delivered, but also the way of measuring IT's success in delivering those services.

There is plenty more insight in Trevor Williamson's two-part article. Read it and don't worry overly much about your job in the cloud.