There have been many articles over the last few years about the role of IT workers in a Cloud-enabled world. We have already seen a few job losses to the Cloud, but the IT industry is strong and demand for qualified workers is still high. There are still more jobs than there are qualified people to fill them. That being said, enterprises are starting to look up the ladder to see if middle and upper management are necessary as the Cloud rolls in.
In most industries outside of Tech itself, IT has morphed from a sunk cost to a center for competitive advantage to a commodity. The Cloud is mainly responsible for that last part, as businesses can now procure SaaS, PaaS and IaaS solutions without having to hire an army of technical people to manage it. As an enterprise moves up that stack from IaaS to PaaS, that shift accelerates to the point where one can even question if a CIO is necessary. While this is a natural response to shifting toward a fully burdened OPEX driven model, I would say that the CIO gains value as the move to Cloud progresses. Why? It's simple really. While you will not need as many 'doers', you absolutely need the 'thinkers' to make the right decisions with respect to business goals, initiatives and technology.
When a company moves a project or application to the Cloud, the Cloud provider is now managing all of the 'low level' aspects of IT such as system administration, networking, storage, security and even development if it is a SaaS solution. If a company goes 'all in' with Cloud, there is no longer a need for most of the positions that once handled those 'low level' aspects. What will not change, however, is that business is constantly evolving and business initiatives evolve with the business. Companies need someone who can continually look at the business and see what technologies will enable success. These 'visionaries' will need to assess new initiatives and match solutions based on defined success criteria. This has always been the primary role of the CIO, but things are a little different now. Instead of planning everything from hardware acquisition to software support, the CIO needs to know what Cloud solutions fit the bill and how to get those solutions to the end users. It is more of a matter of aligning solutions with business goals and looking at OPEX impact for these solutions. I call it a different take on the same story. This is the 'new and improved' Cloud CIO.
The new Cloud CIO: Faster, More Efficient and Business Savvy. Perhaps I should have reversed the order on that list because the new Cloud CIO will find that his/her most important skill is now being business savvy. Being the visionary that can take the needs of the business and match them to Cloud services is the ticket to increasing a CIOs value to the company. Doing this in the most efficient way will come second as moving from a CAPEX driven model to an OPEX driven model already helps the bottom line. Lastly but definitely not least in terms of overall importance is speed. If the CEO approaches a CIO and declares a new business initiative, the new Cloud CIO needs to be able to respond quickly. Moving into a new market in a few days rather than a few months can mean the success or failure of an entire division, or even a company.
Of course, none of this takes into account that there will be many apps that are slow to move to the cloud or have suitable replacements over time. There will always be a need to oversee a local technology presence no matter how much we move to the Cloud. The new Cloud CIO carries immense value in being the visionary that understands technology and can lead the business through the migration to Cloud and beyond. Managing how the cloud will enable the business to grow and maintain competitive advantages is also of high importance. As anyone familiar with Cloud knows, the shift to Cloud is about so much more than Cloud itself. Interacting with partners and integrating systems and data with new Cloud services still needs to be planned and executed. Building the IT brand of the company as one that is forward thinking and adopting of new technologies is key to attracting and keeping younger talent who are all used to working in the Cloud with various mobile devices and Cloud based services. From these few examples you can see that the shift from the old CIO to the new Cloud CIO can actually be an expansion of influence rather than a diminishing one. It's time to make that shift. The Cloud is calling. Will you answer? If you don't, I assure you that someone else will.