Mark Lomas, IT solutions consultant, Probrand
For IT managers, cloud computing poses something of a challenge. For those who’ve spent the majority of the last few years doing engineering-style work rather than consulting, the natural question is whether the cloud will put your job at risk. Will the big changes to your carefully-constructed IT stack make you irrelevant?
I don’t believe in all or nothing. Somewhere between the two visions of everything and nothing lies a possibility that’s far more grounded in reality – some change.
What’s not going away any time soon is the need for on premise infrastructure across a variety of environments. But for those environments embracing change, I often hear too much conventional wisdom that IT is being ‘lost to the cloud’, that IT’s job is over. This defeatist attitude from some shows a depressing lack of imagination from a sector that has been given a great chance to grasp exciting new opportunities. And, let’s face it – even without all these new technologies, if all you’re doing is helping to keep the lights on, then you’re not adding much value to the business.
SaaS cloud suites are a great example. With the big players all offering a range of software that wouldn’t otherwise have deployed on premise, previous barriers, including the expense, have been removed. The deployment aspect is now taken from your hands, the cost spread. So why is this an opportunity? Because it frees you up to dive straight into making sure new software is having a positive impact on the business. Instead of having time to kill, you’ll have your work cut out.
No longer is your job title an IT manager – you’ve become an IT project manager, a consultant. On top of what you’ve already got going on, you’ll now need to evaluate, pilot and test. Training, creating staff reference materials and promoting each new piece of software being rolled out will be within your remit. It’s not completely unexpected to need some help.
Utilising the 'V' in your VAR
This is where traditional Value Added Resellers (VARs) can come in handy, helping to deliver some of that user interaction that often forms part of a SaaS rollout. This helps IT management teams get on with coordinating the project and ensuring the needs of the business are clearly defined and met. There’s also a complimentary role, with VARs able to help boost the resources available for IT during these critical stages.
The value of this can’t be understated. Day-to-day operations require a finite level of resource. But when projects demand additional resource, using the services available from an IT consultant can help fill that gap. This lets you ramp up the available engineering, project management and consultancy services available to you quickly, and in an even more granular fashion than a lone IT contractor could provide.
For those used to this way of working it may sound like nothing new, but to a tribe of IT managers out there used to doing more 'engineering' in their role, it can be a daunting change. It’s a change to embrace though and one that can benefit everyone.
The future of the IT manager
The IT manager's job evolves and actually grows as opposed to shrinking. New versions get released; new features get added, and so on. There’s always a reason to keep going round the cycle, helping the business continue to extract value from the product. After all, they're paying for it via a subscription, month after month. There’s no point investing in the technology if they’re not going to use it to its fullest potential. And helping a business to do just that is, without doubt, a full-time job in itself!
Beyond the original period of deployment, you might still need the services offered by external organisations like VARs. Cloud SaaS providers love change, and you may well find yourself having got used to the software’s user interface one day only to wake up the next to find it looks completely different. It won’t be long before the phone starts ringing with users looking for guidance, so keeping a VAR on hand beyond the initial rollout isn’t a bad idea. Think of it less as a support contract and more as a consultancy contract. Ramp up resources, bring a consultant in to manage acceptance of the new version and keep that productivity growing.
But it’s not for everyone. Some will choose other options, like sticking with a more technical route and embracing development or DevOps.
It’s easy enough to brush off the idea of consultancy, but you’d be losing the ability to more closely align IT with business goals – and going it alone is far riskier than taking the plunge. After all, if you’re not going to make yourself obsolete on your own terms, someone else will do it for you.
Find out more about offloading your most difficult and distracting computing tasks to the cloud.