But I've come to realize that such transformation is more of a skills and operational model shift than a technology shift (although technology is clearly an enabler). As was often mentioned at a recent CIO event I attended, "My technology is ready. My people are not"
This topic of talent, training and organization appears to be consistently glossed-over. But recently at EMC and with customers, I'm seeing the beginnings of a sea change in the industry.
Early Indicators of Change
My first sense of the need for change arose from a 2010 conversation with an analyst about using converged infrastructure. They made the observation that "to use a converged infrastructure to its fullest, you need a converged organization." This got me thinking: when the boundaries between compute, storage and network begin to blur, so must the boundaries between traditional IT organizations. The advent of cloud computing (more specifically, IaaS and PaaS) highlights a similar issue.
Slowly, the 'unit of management' in the data center is shifting away from the isolated IT component, and is moving toward the application service. IT management is having to treat the infrastructure more holistically, more horizontally. With more automated provisioning, virtualization and elastic capacity, orchestration across all components is becoming a requirement. Similarly, the skills of IT Ops personnel need to be more integrated - individuals simply need more cross-specialization knowledge and training to ensure that services are delivered quickly and efficiently.
My next sense of the breadth of change came when I joined EMC and saw what Sanjay Mirchandani (EMC's CIO) saw in transformation to IT-as-a-Service. To him, cloud computing and infrastructure automation were merely enablers for IT organizations to become more of strategic enablers to the business, more of internal service bureaus, driving consumption of their services, and operating overall like a business itself. Toward this end, EMC-IT has been documenting its change now for a number of years. But, because this shift involved so much more than just technology, I began to realize that the skills and roles within "traditional" IT would become woefully inadequate in a number of years.
In the transformed world of IT (and IT-as-a-Service) the organization needs to develop horizontal groups to manage broad platform architecture and management, as well as roles that 'broker' those services to the lines of business (service managers) and maintain alignment to the needs of users. There may even be roles that loosely align with 'sales and marketing' that help drive awareness and consumption of IT services - concepts that will surely seem foreign to any CIO.
What's Next... and How To Prepare Your People
When recently reading an article in Forbes I observed that others were noticing these needs (and opportunities) for IT skills of the future as well:
"As a result of the shift to cloud, there is growing demand for professionals and managers that are more focused on business development than they are in application development. There will be greater opportunities for enterprise architects, and some offshoots will include cloud architects, cloud capacity planners, cloud service managers and business solutions consultants. Jobs being created may not always bear the term “cloud” in their titles, but cloud will form the core of their job descriptions.What caught me here was not all new roles will be technology-focused. Service managers and business solutions consultants - for example - will be client-focused. Think of that: Roles that exist solely to understand the line-of-business operating units, develop services (not technologies) to meet their needs, and help drive demand for those services. (See related post on A Marketing Lesson for IT )
So if you believe the tenet that skills and roles will play a more critical role in the transformation of IT, then where does one start? Here at EMC, I was pleasantly surprised to see that our own HR department is right on top of the problem. Our IT HR director in fact was taking the lead in describing what change lay ahead. In a recent communication of hers she noted
"...we are in the midst of a process to build on our current skills to foster the ITaaS model, taking deliberate steps to fill any gaps by providing plenty of training and support. Last quarter, we assessed the skill level of each employee against a set of key competencies needed for their particular functions under ITaaS to determine what added training/support they need. In some cases, the skills we’ll be drawing on are very different than the typical IT focus. New areas of required expertise include things like product management and development, communications, marketing, negotiation and influence skills, and financial acumen.
"Our prime focus in Human Resources is employee development and preparing employees for what our future IT organization will look like. This is part of our life-long learning and development program.... We are going to help [our people] gain new skills and provide them with the tools they need. A key part of the journey will involve learning to think like a service provider rather than the internal agency we are used to being. It will require a shift in our cultural mindset from discouraging business IT demand to actually selling and marketing IT services.Wow. IT shifting its mindset to selling and marketing... That our HR group is this intimately involved in the transformation of the business I found exciting and enlightening. And as I looked further, I realized that we (and others, I'm sure) are beginning to take steps to prepare for this transition. EMC for example, recently Announced Cloud Architect and Data Center Architect certification tracks including expert-level tracks (and Brochure PDF )
In many ways, existing hosting and public cloud service providers already know much of this; their business depends on good customer service, meeting requirements, and driving consumption (demand). Enterprise IT now simply has to learn from them - and adopt this new mindset.
Where to start? Begin thinking about how the following job skills and orgs might play a role in advancing IT's strategic importance in the organization
- New Consumption models - There is a need to simplify and drive how services are consumed. This is a 2-part process. Technically, there is the migration toward self-service catalogs. But there is also the marketing aspect that drives awareness and demand for these services - IT needs to think "commercially" - attract demand, and make access to it as frictionless as possible.
- New Operational models: Architecturally and operationally, more of IT will become "horizontally" oriented, along the lines of business services and along the lines of customers. New orchestration-style tools and processes will be needed - implying the need for skills to manage them properly.
- New Marketing roles: Yes, marketing. To drive consumption, IT has to expose more of its services to more potential business users... and do so competitively. That is, IT needs not only to think about what the business needs, but what their next alternative (outside of the IT organization) is, and ensure that IT is the vendor of choice. More about marketing IT here.
- New Finance roles: Implementing IT cost transparency doesn’t just require financial data, though that is what most people think about when they hear the term. It also depends on information about hosting, applications, infrastructure, licensing and maintenance, and other things that let us associate costs to services. Clearly these roles are net-new to IT
- New Business relationships: Partnering with, and aligning to the business is about more than just providing basic IT services and helpdesk. It means working alongside line-of-business planning to understand what drives their top-line business, what is at the core of their competitive advantage, and what business agility can add to these. Dedicated roles - which are steeped in both business and technology skills - need to be acquired and assigned to individual business units.
- IT as a Service: Models for Consumption, Operations, Technology
- Fountainhead: An Image Makeover for IT
- Fountainhead: A Marketing Lesson for IT
- IT Transformation: Two Days With Leading CIOs
- Chuck's Blog: Cloud And The Act of Being Selfish
- Chuck's Blog: New IT, New Roles, New Tools
- Cloud Computing is Changing Many Job Descriptions (Forbes)
- The Blind Men and The Elephant - EMC-IT's transformation
- EMC Cloud Architect expert-level tracks (and Brochure PDF )