Chief Information Officer: One Day, I Will Collect Information

As mentioned previously in this blog, cloud portfolio management company RightScale has now completed its third run of the State of the Cloud Report. In the spring, the firm questioned 1068 computing executives throughout a spectrum of industries. Amazingly, a total of 94% of the organizations represented by respondents were using a cloud: 29% public, 7% private, and 58% a combination of both. (Since large companies often behave differently from smaller ones related to technology, it’s noteworthy that only 24% of survey participants were with firms that have a workforce in excess of a thousand people.)

As the cloud grows, the general IT landscape rapidly evolves. One basic fact of the evolution is that the job responsibilities of many professionals are changing, so the skillsets that are most needed are under revision as well.

Family Dollar CIO Josh Jewett notes that enterprises no longer need individuals who excel at putting together hardware. Instead, they need computing professionals who have a knack for monitoring a third-party company that is in charge of the hardware. Jewett said that the process is basically the same but performed by another party: “You go from managing outcomes yourselves to managing outcomes through others.”

Ann Bednarz of CIO interviewed 16 enterprise technology heads about the transition from traditional computing to the cloud, resulting in a series of articles on the same general theme. (For example, one article was related to challenges of the technology, while another discussed simple and straightforward strategies.) One installment of the batch of reports, published October 14, specifically focused on how the expectations and practices of recruitment and knowledge development are adjusting to the emergence of cloud hosting.

Everything is changing. One CIO who spoke with Bednarz said that someday soon, people would start asking information-technology departments to bring them information.

Don’t Virtualize Everything, Sonny

Randy Spratt, who is the chief information and technology officer for the healthcare company McKesson, mentions that everything has been tweaked by the rise of distributed virtualization: not only have the professional skills needed for a strong tech team been altered, but vendor interaction has become more critical now that the deployment is so often performed as a service rather than on-site.

A smooth transition to the cloud is best achieved by an individual who is good at rallying people behind a cause. It requires someone who can explain and convince regarding the nature of systems, rather than simply a strong engineer. “You need to educate businesses about what they have,” he notes. “It’s like an internal sales job.”

Many businesses want to consider what they will virtualize and what they won’t – such as businesses wanting to continue to utilize dedicated hardware that they already own in conjunction with cloud hosting. In those cases – says computing support firm SAIC’s technology chief, Bob Fecteau – the skill needed by staff is an understanding of the systems most suited for virtualization.

Fecteau believes that the technical skills of computing professionals, such as coding or managing a network, will become less essential than information exchange. He envisions a future in which technologists are asked, “‘How can you get me the info we need to make key business decisions?’”

You can’t just give someone another title, shifting someone from data center specialist to cloud specialist: that’s the primary message of top Dow Chemical information executive Paula Tolliver. She notes that integration is a critical approach with the cloud, the ability to fuse together various cloud infrastructural and software components (potentially from more than one provider) and any internal systems.

Dow has recruited new computing professionals with virtualization focuses, as well as trained continuing staff in the technology so that experience and business continuity is maintained.

What’s Your Provider Done for You Lately?

One CIO likes to look for the strongest option available at a competitive price point, after which he works out a combination hosting and consulting package with the provider, so that his organization can test services, get help deploying them, and have access to expertise.

That executive, Brian LeClaire of Humana, says that the insurance company deploys more than one pilot of various platform options at one time. Once all the tests are active, the cloud provider directly trains his team. He also has recruited individuals that are strong at certain cloud elements, aware that specific knowledge is often the only avenue for success: “The tool is no good if you don’t understand the applications the tool is meant to help.”

Hitting the Books

Willingness to adapt to developing technologies is fundamental, according to The Vanguard Group technology head John Marcante. He says that his computing staff is able to adjust rapidly to different expectations, especially since many more tasks are now being assigned to the machines: “Cloud allows for a lot more automation and less sophistication and deep knowledge.”

Adaptation has been fundamental for us at Superb Internet since our founding in 1996. Nothing epitomizes adaptation and flexibility like our Flex Cloud offering. It gives you access to optimal performance On Demand, and you only pay based on use. In fact, you can create your own Flex Cloud VM now for free.

By Kent Roberts

Free Use Image via Wikipedia