Does your company still need an IT department in the cloud era?

Sep 10, 2015

Did you already retrain your IT staff?

Change has always been common in IT.  However, over the last years there is a new evolution, which has a major impact on IT as we know it. Nobody can ignore it.  It’s called cloud computing. It exists in many flavors (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS,…) and we believe we’re just seeing the start of it.

Up till some years ago every organization had a number of IT administrators who were maintaining the mail server, firewalls, lots of physical Windows and Unix servers on a daily basis. They needed a closet or two just to store all CD-ROMs with software and updates. It were the days that many IT managers still believed that rolling out a (complex) monolithic ERP was their final destination to reach. And implementing IT security meant gathering the company’s data as much as possible in the own data center and keeping all intruders out of the own network while trying to limit the end user’s access to the internet.

Today, we are overwhelmed with applications that are running in the cloud (e-mail, CRM, HRM, travel & expense management,…). The closet with software CD-ROMs has been replaced by a (digital) contract management system to keep track of all the cloud solutions that we bought or, more correctly, rented. The IT manager got convinced that a smaller ERP, surrounded by a number of best-of-breed (cloud) solutions would bring more user-friendliness to our users. And the main security challenge has become to ensure that our own (and customer) data is being managed securely in the cloud and in compliance with complex privacy laws.

A shift in the IT department’s role

In today’s world, the IT department is no longer the only department deciding on the IT services and products to be bought. Online CRM tools are typically implemented by the sales manager for his team. Services like Amazon AWS, MS Azure,… are independently purchased by the developers, and the customer service team selects its own ITSM tool.

If a company’s IT department wants to remain relevant, it must ensure that it can deal with the large variety of cloud services available today, and add value by coming up with a responsive set of services to add value for the company.

The IT department of the future needs to be able to act as a custodian of multiple technologies and systems. It will have to make sure that all contracted SLAs are being respected by the cloud providers, that the systems are interoperable and can work together, and that the service providers have long-term visions that are compatible with the direction the company is heading.

A big challenge is to integrate these rapidly arising cloud applications into one logical business process, so the importance of master data management and application integration continues to grow.

Overall, as a consequence of the cloud evolution, the emphasis of the IT department is shifting more and more from “IT” to “business” services.

New roles within the team

In order to successfully play its new role in the organization, the IT department needs a number of new profiles. They are more in need of IT generalists instead of IT specialists and people who can manage the cloud providers.  The new roles are typically business process analysts, master data management experts, contract managers (with a legal background), integration experts, usability experts and service delivery managers.

Roles that will become less in demand are the typical IT administrator (e.g. e-mail, Windows/Unix,…), (server) hardware specialists,…

A steering or a supporting IT department

Cloud computing is becoming increasingly important for most organizations. The growing adoption of cloud is an evolution that has a significant impact on every IT department as it changes its role within the company and changes the job of most people within the department. The ability to adapt itself to the changing environment will define whether the IT department will become steering within the organization or will play a mere supporting role for other departments that are in the lead. Having the right people on board will make the difference!


Do you want to share experiences on the impact cloud is having on your IT organization?   We’ll be glad to read them.


Author: Steven Fleurent. You can follow Steven on Twitter (@fleurent) or connect with him on LinkedIn