Cloudy Organizations

CHRO, CIO, People and Change

Choosing to implement cloud services in your organization will affect more than your technology landscape; there’s a direct impact to the skills and roles your organization needs to support those services.

What Are Cloud Services And Why Should I Care?

Cloud computing and cloud services have been around for many years. In fact if you use a smart phone or tablet you’re probably an avid user of cloud services already as some common examples include:

  • Microsoft’s Outlook (formerly Hotmail) and Google’s Gmail email services
  • Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google’s Google Docs for online creation and editing of documents, spreadsheets and presentations
  • Dropbox for storing and / or sharing files

Cloud services satisfy the demand for software, platforms and infrastructure that maximise flexibility and convenience, at a reasonable cost.

If you and your team are making increasing use of cloud-based services at home it’s natural that you will begin to expect similar levels of services and flexibility from your workplace, and wonder why when it’s not.

When cloud services are discussed most thinking is naturally on how the technology and services can make work easy, flexible and affordable. What may be forgotten in the excitement is how moving to cloud services changes your needs and requirements from your IT organization.

If you use a smart phone or tablet you’re probably an avid user of cloud services already

Consider the two following questions:

  • What is an effective organization structure to support cloud services?
  • What new skills will your IT organization need to support cloud services?

To answer the questions we need to first explore the general benefits and complications that come with cloud services.

Benefits And Complications With Cloud Services

Your decision to adopt cloud services for your organization requires weighing the benefits against the complications.

Cloud services can be purchased at varying levels of abstraction, from infrastructure through to fully functioning, specific business applications, highlighted in Table 1.

Cloud service Illustration
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Additional servers, extra CPU power, extra SAN space etc.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) Fully functioning Windows Server to your specification / requirements, Oracle Database running on the kit you need etc
Software as a Service (SaaS) Web-based business solutions such as PeopleSoft On Demand, or Salesforce etc. usually costed per-user
Table 1: List of Cloud Services  


Though each service has its own unique benefits and complications, there are some common themes. Some of these are highlighted below:

Benefits
Purchase top-rate services at a fraction of the cost of building or buying your own
Pay only for what you need
No more in-house maintenance
Table 2

To fully realise the benefits of cloud services, your organization needs to be able to effectively manage the complications.

Complications
Complicated legal and regulatory considerations (e.g. location of customer / employee data)
Ensure business continuity and compliance
Greater trust as infrastructure owned and managed by another party
Less control as outages and upgrades will be based on providers’ timings, which may not be convenient
Difficult to interface legacy systems to the cloud services and / or interface cloud services to each other
Complicated transition of IT infrastructure and systems from current state to cloud services
Requires a new set of management tools to monitor systems inside and outside the organization
Table 3


How Does This Affect My People?

A typical large IT organization follows the Shape:Build:Run:Govern functions illustrated below in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Typical IT Organization

Most IT organizations have the roles listed in Figure 1 in some form, though a person may perform more than one. Where organizations tend to differ is which area the roles sit, for example, Relationship Management might sit outside of your IT organization. When you consider the complications highlighted previously in Table 2 and Table 3 alongside the purpose of each individual area and role in an IT organization, it becomes apparent how the organization’s skills need to adapt when moving to cloud-based services.

New Architecture Skills

  • Enterprise architecture becomes a critical skill for your organization
  • Good enterprise architecture means you can clearly map cloud systems to your own systems and understand how to quickly and easily take them on, or drop them
  • You may consider introducing a “Cloud Architect” role to ensure cloud services adhere to corporate security and data standards and integrate smoothly with other corporate applications (both cloud and legacy), or expand the skills of the Enterprise and Technical Architects to manage cloud standards
  • IT security and compliance becomes much more important when your data, systems, applications...everything...is off-site, controlled by someone else and subject to international laws. Your architects need to be cognizant of this in all their work

Figure 2: Shape functions

Less Skills...And Possibly Less People

  • When using SaaS (e.g. Salesforce) nearly all design, development and project testing has been “outsourced” to the service provider so you can either:
  • Change the team’s priorities
  • Retain their knowledge and skills and move them elsewhere in your IT organization
  • Reduce the size of the team to meet demand
  • Integration testing and user acceptance testing is just as important when using cloud services to ensure what is being handed over to the business meets their expectations

Figure 3: Build functions

Greater Flexibility, Faster Pace And A More Proactive Response From Service Teams

  • Ensure that cloud services are being maintained and proactively monitor their performance
  • Greater release / change coordination is required as change will be driven externally, and you will generally have a limited ability to influence timeframes
  • Due to the fast pace of change your organization needs a role to proactively review upcoming changes, assess preparedness and coordinate rollouts from cloud providers
  • “Cloud Service Manager” or “Service Delivery Manager” will need to act as a middleman between the cloud provider and the business
  • Cloud services provide more flexibility on how quickly and easily you can add capacity however you need to be careful that cloud solutions match your IT SLAs
  • Less infrastructure support will be needed (including the management of physical storage)
  • Continuity planning and management are more critical skills and your organization needs to ensure that if one cloud provider fails you can maintain business continuity

Figure 4: Run Functions

Strong Vendor Management and Planning Skills

  • Enhanced skills to embed and enforce controls and arrangements with cloud providers, particularly around SLAs and reporting
  • Proactive forward planning to consider what is needed from the cloud providers
  • Information security and compliance becomes much more important when your data, systems, applications...everything...is off-site, controlled by someone else and subject to international laws. Your team need to stay on top of legislation and compliance issues and protect your customer, employee and company data which is now residing on someone else’s infrastructure.

Figure 5: Govern functions

The exact impact to your organization will depend on how you chose to adopt cloud services. The likely situation is that you’ll need to consider at least some of the impacts raised above. While technology changes such as cloud services can bring some fantastic benefits to your business, without the right support team in place you could end up in some difficult situations.

For more information please contact:

Nicholas Jarrett 
nicholas.jarrett@northhighland.com

Mark Norris 
mark.norris@northhighland.com

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