This guest post was written by M.C. Muyaruka, a Zimbabwean ICT infrastructure expert based in South Africa.
Cloud computing and virtualization are bringing a paradigm shift for the classic IT function. Adapting your skills to the new technical requirements could make all the difference and ultimately increase your visibility and depending on your current situation, those clouds on the horizon bring welcome relief or are the beginning of the end to your career.
As we begin to analyse the early cloud deployments like hosted exchange, database driven websites or other deployments of software as a service, their impact is not greeted warmly by all IT pros. One possible outcome goes beyond moving applications to the cloud, but actually there are now attempts to provision IT itself as a service – More and more organizations are transforming their IT departments into self-sustaining business units, treating internal users as if they were external customers.
IT is a business within the business, if it is not run that way, it won’t be effective or efficient. Most organizations are a few years away from “IT as a service” and, there’s no escaping the fact that clouds are agents of transformation, a catalyst for change.
At a strategic level, the business drivers of this change are here to stay. Companies and organisations are eager for the next wave of productivity and efficiency. And it’s not going to happen via traditional methods. They’re going to do it through highly leveraged, highly automated, digitized business processes, so, for those that have that kind of skill, there is great opportunity.
There is a strong but scary similarity of the classic IT function to the now obsolete phone shop. The Internet has had a profound impact on the way people communicate. It’s not that we no longer desire communicating with our friends but rather, more efficient and cheaper ways of keeping touch have emerged like the rise of social networking sites; Facebook , and certain IT skills will likely find the same terrible fate.
One thing is certain, the increasing availability of cloud compute cycles and storage will increase demand for people who understand how to implement and optimize successful business automation applications. With any transformation, the roles that once defined a job can change.
While IT roles are forever evolving, technologies like virtualization and cloud computing look to accelerate that evolution. Migration to a cloud architecture will change IT jobs descriptions and cause CIOs to restructure and streamline the traditional IT department. IT goals will change, with more emphasis on business analysts, which places more value on IT and causes more interaction with business leaders.
Risk and Opportunity
With such exposure comes opportunity and, yes, risk. When IT becomes more strategic to the business, the IT Manager becomes more involved in visionary planning and ends up managing relationships more than operations. There’s more emphasis on “creating value and less keeping the lights on”, the screw driver type of IT will be obsolete
And when IT is viewed more as an agile, on-demand service, service management becomes a needed skill set. The underlying theme is more relationship management, which puts a premium on communication skills.
Consequently, there will be operational IT skills that become more needed over the next decade. These are: network engineering, security, and compliance as areas of increased demand. Hosting providers will provide some of that, but organizations “can delegate authority, not responsibility,”
Success in IT has always been about overcoming challenges and making it easier for your users to do their jobs better. Cloud computing is a new platform but many of the requirements for the new job roles are skills that already exist and, in some cases, are recombined with new emphasis, such as “service integrator,” which demands sourcing, procurement and service, competencies you probably have. Likewise, the emerging role of “cloud architect” has an emphasis on skills around enterprise networking, security and virtualization.
If cloud computing removes much of the burden of major development efforts, deployments, and integration projects, IT pros will continue to add value by focusing on business processes and providing innovation. So skills in project management, testing and analysis become more desired.
Cloud computing is learning to do systems in a different way. We’re used to a world where we procure hardware; we set it up; we configure it; we have a development, test, a pre-production and production environment; we’re used to managing a lot of physical assets. In a world where we’re moving to the cloud and the development environment could potentially be instant-on, when you need it, and you scale your production environments to the size you need, when you need it; it allows you to focus operationally on a different set of things than maybe you’ve been doing in the past.