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Cloud and the IT Department: All Change?

David Malmborg of Dell argues that cloud is changing the role of the IT department.

Cloud enables applications, such as cloud-based customer relations management (CRM) systems, to be offered via a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Software as a service alleviates the need for companies to purchase expensive, specialized business applications. In this article David Malmborg argues that cloud will result in changing priorities for IT staff across the enterprise.  

The Changing Role of IT as Security Guardian

As Paul Moxon observes in a recent  Business Computing World article, “Traditionally, IT has owned security and acted as the guardian of data and systems access. However, with the move to the cloud, most security will be provided by the cloud provider.” The role of IT is changing with the adoption of cloud-based applications to be that of a middle man, working as a service administrator to clarify the cloud provider’s security strategy to enterprise users, and to provide input to the cloud provider with regards to implementation of security necessary for the enterprise business model.

The role of IT is evolving from the security guardian of the enterprise network to the role of service administrator or agent, assisting enterprise users to get the most out of the cloud-based application. As cloud-based services are implemented, the role of security falls on the shoulders of the cloud service provider. The role of IT staff becomes one of training and explaining to users how the cloud model functions.

Repositioning Internal Support

IT support, such as helpdesks and support systems, have traditionally been provided on-site by IT staff. With the implementation of cloud-based support systems and helpdesks, IT staff must explore new ways to keep their role in the support loop. After all, users may have the option of bypassing IT staff entirely and obtaining support directly from the cloud provider. IT staff must embrace the implementation of cloud-based support and helpdesk systems in order to remain an integral part of the enterprise support system.

Phasing Out Specialized IT Staff

As more business applications are developed on the cloud computing infrastructure, the need for specialized IT personnel is steadily decreasing. For example, CRM systems of the past were large, complicated and expensive software suites that were installed to a dedicated server. Specialized IT personnel were required, not only to deploy and manage the application, but to perform ongoing tasks such as updating and patching the application. In addition, users required training on the systems.

As cloud-based applications are adopted for business, positions for specialized IT staff are slowly being phased out. After all, if the CRM software is available as a cloud-based application, there is no server or software to maintain on-site. The application is entirely available over an Internet connection and the application may be utilized through any standard web browser. No software updates are required and no hardware is needed to utilize a cloud-based CRM application in the enterprise.

Changing IT Network Performance Management

Even IT network performance management is now offered as a cloud-based SaaS application. Network performance applications, such as PathView Cloud, enable IT staff to manage a diverse distributed network using a cloud-based application. Network performance management platforms, such as PathView Cloud, allow IT staff to monitor and manage their own WAN, as well as cloud-based storage and applications, from one easy to use, cloud-backed interface.

Cloud-based network performance management tools are a new and innovative approach to network monitoring tools. Such suites integrate with all components of the diverse distributed enterprise network of today. Cloud-based network performance management solutions allow IT staff to be more mobile, although staff presence on-site is required in case of a network failure. However, such cloud services tend to free up some of the IT staff’s time by simplifying tasks of network management.

Shift Toward IT’s Role in Strategic Planning

As Paul Moxon notes, the IT staff of today spends approximately 80 percent of their time performing system and network maintenance. As cloud-based applications are implemented, these tasks will ultimately be phased out. Now is the time for IT staff to begin to reinvent the role of their department as more of a strategic planning unit, developing new ways to implement cloud-based applications in the enterprise. The role of IT should develop into a more proactive function that assists the enterprise in identifying emerging technologies and exploring how these technologies may be implemented to benefit the business.

The role of IT is changing as cloud-based applications become more prevalent in the enterprise. However, the role of IT need not go the way of the dinosaur as long as IT decision makers recognize that the landscape is changing with cloud services. In order to remain relevant, the role of IT needs to develop into one of planning and strategy rather than system maintenance and security implementation.

IT staff need to be proactive in finding new ways that cloud services may benefit the business. However, some applications will likely never be offered as cloud-based services. Companies that require heightened security for trade secrets, and those that manage financial information, may never be comfortable with off-site hosting of their sensitive data. Therefore, some applications may remain under the auspices and control of IT staff. Few would argue that, in spite of these exceptions, the role of IT is changing with the widespread adoption of cloud services.

About the Author: David Malmborg works with Dell, and enjoys writing about technology. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, the outdoors, and spending time with his family. You can find more information about Dell Cloud computing here.

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