Cloud changes IT’s role in business strategy, survey finds

9 Mar 2011

The move towards cloud computing is changing the role of IT departments towards having a greater say in shaping business strategy and innovation, a new study of 200 IT managers in Europe and the US has found.

According to the survey, 96pc of respondents said the primary role of IT has changed over the past five years and 71pc expect that trend to continue over the next 24 months. The question posed by cloud computing, the survey described it, is how can IT leaders stay relevant to the business.

More than half (54pc) of the respondents acknowledged the current value of IT is largely defined by its role as owner and operator of IT infrastructure. Within two years, the primary value of IT will come from managing the IT supply chain, respondents said. Forces such as process standardisation, increased automation and a rise in outsourcing engagements – including moving more services to the cloud – have all contributed to this shift.

Future Human

The survey results also indicated that IT professionals believe cloud computing accelerates agility (63pc), innovation (58pc) and collaboration with the business (57pc). Respondents anticipate cloud computing will boost IT productivity (55pc) while decreasing the level of staff time and resources dedicated to IT support (40pc).

IDG Research Services, which conducted the study, said that in future IT organisations will become less an owner of the IT infrastructure and more a manager of the end-to-end service quality, performance and cost of IT services.

In a white paper released with the findings, IDG said these trends are causing IT to resemble a supply chain. In the traditional supply-chain model, loose collections of resources (technology, processes, goods, services and people) are organised in a logical manner to deliver goods and services to customers.

As applications, infrastructure and even business processes migrate to the cloud, IT organisations that can become effective IT supply-chain managers will be able to create value for their business and position IT as a driver of growth, the white paper said.

Skill set adjustment

Changing to this model of delivering IT will require a significant adjustment in the current skill set of the IT organisation, with business and management experience in greater demand. Almost 70pc of respondents agreed an increasing number of CIOs and senior IT staff will have a background in business rather than technology in the future.

Two-thirds of IT leaders said the ability to manage service providers is the IT skill most likely to increase in importance over the next two years, while more than seven out of 10 said their IT organisations are focusing more time on managing outsourced IT or cloud services providers now compared with five years ago.

“As the IT organisation transitions from an owner and operator of IT infrastructure to a manager of more complex, multi-platform internal and external services, CIOs are tasked with redefining the value of IT to the business,” said Adam Famularo, general manager, cloud computing business at CA Technologies, which sponsored the survey. This shift represents an opportunity for IT professionals to expand their skill sets and become more strategic advisers to the business, he said.

With that in mind, a range of new job titles looks set to emerge over the next few years. Predictions from respondents included roles like cloud architect, cloud service manager, cloud integration specialist/expert, cloud security manager/engineer, director of cloud infrastructure and executive vice-president of cloud technologies.

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Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic