Will IT Staff Get Lost in the Clouds, or Gain Greater Business Altitude?


At this point, not much is clear about the ultimate impact of cloud computing, as IT Business Edge blogger Art Cole pointed out just last week. However, one thing seems certain: Cloud computing and other emerging technologies will fundamentally change the roles and responsibilities of IT staff.


Last month I wrote about how mashups could alter traditional software development by offering business users the ability to create their own tools -- thus shifting IT's focus to maintaining mission-critical systems and to creating foundational Web-development platforms for users. Mashups seem to portend a further narrowing of the gap between business and IT -- once a yawning chasm, but increasingly becoming a more manageable distance.


I just read a Computerworld article about cloud computing that contains plenty of interesting points about coming changes in IT staff compositions and skill sets. (Click to page 2 for these insights.) According to the article, as companies move to cloud computing, they will have a greater need for folks with transitional skills. The example offered: folks who can determine new ways of providing support to business users. Systems integration skills will also become more important, as companies add hosted applications to their existing on-premise systems.


Vendor relationship management skills also will be in demand. Business "super-users" rather than traditional IT staff may handle these duties, says Paul Major, managing director of IT at Aspen Skiing Co. Several other experts stress the need for IT staffers to improve their business chops.


Young employees entering the workforce will spend the first decade or so of their careers working for managed services providers before some of them switch to corporate middle and senior IT management positions, predicts futurist and Computerworld columnist Thornton May. He says:

You're basically going to get your technology chops inside the belly of the outsourcing beast and some subset of these people will migrate over to their customers.

Business types won't completely take over IT, though. Among the functions that will likely remain in house: data management, business intelligence and project portfolio management.


What about CIOs? Robert Keefe, CIO at Robert Mueller Water Products, thinks the most technically oriented types may move to managed services providers while those with broader business skills will remain in corporate IT. Another tech exec, Carmen Malangone, director of IT at Coty, believes the CIO role will dissolve as IT leaders begin working more directly with divisional business leaders.