Yesterday, I met with a number of technologists and educators from North Texas (Interlink) to discuss the changes that educators need to prepare for in their high school and college curricula. It was a lively discussion and reminded me of the issues IT organizations have in determining where to encourage their people to develop themselves and prepare the organization for the future...
I was reading an article on the Forbes site titled: The 8 Most Important Skills Needed for Cloud Computing Todayand it was a thought provoking list. My only complaint was that the skills were very operational in nature.
There are some strategic skills that are required as well:
Organizational change management – adopting cloud is a big change and both planting the seed of change and cultivating it to fruition are a critical skill. Both business and technology will change to fully take advantage of the capabilities. This might be bundled into the business and financial skills, but needs to be called out.
The technical skills listed were a bit tactical as well. I was glad to see that enterprise architecture and business analysis skills were mentioned, but there are some attributes of the development and management activities that are critical. If the need to expand computational resources horizontally is important, the skills and thought shift involved in parallel processing and distributed computing are likely beyond the skills of the traditional IT shop.
I would have also expanded the mobile computing to include distributed sensing as well, since that will be ever more prevalent and important in every industry.
The skills that enable organizations to be more flexible and adaptable that will be key. It is clear that a diverse set of capabilities will be required.
Does IT need to be rethought in the age of mobile devices? As tablets take on more of the businesses heavy lifting, their fundamentally different computing and interface model can enable a more interactive and engaged workforce. It will likely take much more than a thin-client display model to transform today’s business processes into the frictionless, secure, aggregation of services expected in the future. Applications (service aggregations) as well as business processes will be required to change and operate in this social and immersive environment, flexibility is critical.
Touch interfaces have a different feel than the traditional interaction. Although the user can tolerate some interactions on a tablet – using your figure to click on small x’s in the upper right hand corner quickly becomes tedious, especially when on the move (in a plane or a train).
Location aware, always on (and connected) solutions that are sensor-enabled with access to large compute engines for pattern recognition… have the potential to provide differentiated business value as well as a more productive and context aware user interface. We have the opportunity to change the way workers and consumers view the enterprise, by improving decision-making and allowing for greater self-service and automation.
I’ve seen for myself that when projects have great designers and support from individuals with significant change management skills the impact of projects is accelerated and amplified. The same can be said for architects that have a vision for what’s useful and possible. It is more than just hardware, software or business processes that need to change our perspective of what’s possible. We need to tear down some of the barriers to progress that we’ve put up.
In many cases, IT organizations need to lead the enterprise in technology development, deployment and analysis, as a road to greater efficiency and profitability accessing information wherever, whenever and for whatever needs it.
There are a number of things organizations can do to prepare:
- Becoming service-aware – What’s available? How can it be made more flexible? What is the best way to interface with it?
- Deal with distribution (employees, data, security…) – Even company boundaries are not sacrosanct. Design for flexibility.
- Upgrading skills – This is a never ending battle, since technology is always changing
Last night I was part of a discussion with a group of people about “cloud”. We were discussing if it was a threat to IT organizations or an opportunity. The answer we settled on was that it depends on who you are talking with and what their issues are. Unfortunately, there is not one right answer that is applicable to every situation.
Getting to a common understanding quickly in a discussion will save a great deal of confusion and grief (even if you don't all agree on the details).
For those organizations that have tactical issues and want to talk about efforts they can accomplish in the next six months or a year, there are obvious tools and techniques available.
For those that realize that for the first time since computers entered the business that it is the “I” in IT that is undergoing a major shift, some deeper organizational and enterprise change management will be central to any solution.
In other words, the discussion may be about the information available or just possible and what we do with it -- how it can add business value. In that case, any discussion about the underlying infrastructure is a distraction from the business goals, so the conversation will likely be very short if one side focuses on just the IaaS issues.
For the people working with information technology and trying to support their business, client… understanding what the “hot buttons” are and having a plan ready to address them is part of what you need to have ready going into the conversations. The objectives may shift as the conversation develops, but that is progress because you’ll be moving into the root cause of concern for the business. It may seem like common sense, but common sense can be fairly rare.
Recently I was sitting with a group of technologists talking about cloud, its deployment and the implications on their business. What became clear during the discussion is that what most needs to be discussed when contemplating cloud has little to do with what the analysts or technologists wring their hands about. It is not about hardware.
The discussion really needs to start with identifying the issues of the business and the type of ecosystem that will be required to support it. Let’s face it; the whole concept of cloud is about creating an ecosystem that can efficiently delivery capabilities to the business. Some parts will be performed in the business much like they were before, but other functions will be done very differently. The software created to take advantage of the environment may be very different indeed.
This ecosystem will not quite have the “command and control” feel we're familiar with. It doesn't have the same checks and balances that we may be used to. It may respond in ways that are quicker than we’re than our culture is ready to accept.
All of this means that there are significant organizational change management issues involved. Those will change the way the organization views computing, allowing for new solutions to problems that could’t be addressed before. It also means that the relationship between the various components of the business will be shifting around as well.
Many of these we can foresee so treat it the way you would other innovative activities:
– Moving to the cloud is a continuous process and not a single event
– Maximizing value will require discipline and rigorous execution
– Measurement is critical (both to understand what you expect as well as what actually happened)
– To be successful, requires open and honest dialog and assessment of current state and opportunities
– Shifting over to cloud technologies successfully also requires:
- Executive sponsorship
- Strong Business Case
- Clear Governance Structure (both at the macro and micro level)
- Partnership – Across the organization and the extended enterprise (e.g., partners, suppliers)
- Teamwork and desire to succeed
- Open and frequent communication
- Active change management
– When you define your initial projects:
- Drive to short time-frames for delivering results (90 day), quickly taking ideas from concept to solution
- Do pilots that matter – if they don’t matter, no one will care about the results