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How cloud is changing the role of IT

Picture this: Someone calls IT, and he’d patronise and insult his way through fixing minor (to him) computer problems. He’s always irritated because he is having to react to someone else’s issues.

IT was a reactive maintenance and administrative function. In a mainframe environment, those in IT were doing the development, security, monitoring, testing, issue resolution, and logging themselves – there was no time to get ahead.

Now, It’s time for CIOs to have a seat at the boardroom table and shed the “cost center” image. However, we need to remove the business of maintenance and watch-dogging. Tickets in and fixes out.

Resolving critical issues or patching code could take days, and no one knew why because the IT team lived in a back office on the basement floor.

How the Cloud Changed Everything

No one talks about the “back office” as it is expected to run. The days of IT acting as support and execution for the direction set by executive leadership are over. The systems, services, information and processes that IT maintains don’t just drive the business – they are the business!

The “cloud” has been great for IT as competition is always good. The cloud hosting and applications pulled back the curtains and exposed the condition of legacy IT equipment. Whilst the rest of the world wondered what this cloud thing was, business and line managers jumped on early cloud offerings. Finally, a way to avoid IT projects!

Savvy CIOs grasped that they could outsource non value-added activities and use these third-party systems for everything from storage and Salesforce automation to enterprise systems plus more.

As people voiced concerns about security, some CIOs started to build private clouds. Today, many cloud companies are using hybrid clouds with both private and public cloud offerings. Most providers invested in security because it is core to their business, making it better than security at commercial enterprises.

CIOs and other IT leaders realised that they needed to become service brokerages instead of break-fix shops. They could integrate private clouds with their partners’ private clouds for services. Using these services instead of doing the work in-house freed them up to do more.

The New Face of IT

Now, successful CIOs have become: thought leaders, visionaries and strategists. Success before was the lack of failure, today CIOs must move the company forward.

They are responsible for generating revenue and helping set direction for their companies, but must maintain focus on traditional core responsibilities to keep systems in working order, robust and safe.

A Q4 2014 survey by Skyhigh Networks (opens in new tab) found:

  • The average employee uses 27 apps at work
  • The average company uses 897 cloud services (10 per cent more than IT expects!)
  • 92 per cent of companies have users with compromised identities

CIOs now have a variety of new roles that were not available before the cloud:

Strategist: the CIO sees what technologies will be best to use in a month, a year, in five years, and works with the CEO to set direction for the company. IT used to be support for the business, but in today’s digital world, IT is helping to set the strategy for the business.

Facilitator: the CIO understands the needs of each department. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work because business has become complex, big and fast. Marketing has different needs than engineering than finance. Setting up each department for success is becoming a benchmark for IT departments. APIs are making applications behave more like platforms, and CIOs have to be flexible in using them to their best advantage.

Politician: the CIO has to balance the advantages of BYOD, shadow IT and remote work with the potential dangers that these activities invite.

Orchestrator: the CIO chooses the cloud platform that the IT department will use. Often large enterprises use a mix of public, private and hybrid clouds, dependent on integrations and appetite for risk. Employees, partners, customers, and the public have different needs, and CIOs have meet their demands.

Service broker: the CIO manages integrations with strategic partners and in-house development. With the addition of APIs, CIOs can often choose from a menu of potential partnerships to accomplish services that used to exhaust internal resources.

The modern leaders of IT departments are strategists and thought leaders. Cloud technology has given CIOs, CTOs and IT managers a tool set that once seemed unthinkable.

As someone once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” As a result, technical leaders are implementing their own ideas and following their own decisions, and they are held accountable.

I encourage everyone in these leadership roles to take advantage of the tools available and lead your teams and companies because your competitors will be doing the same.

Teon Rosandic is VP, EMEA at xMatters (opens in new tab).