How Cloud Changes your Value Prop as an IT Professional

As an IT professional keep your focus on two overall skill sets: business communication and architectural thinking

In my last post, I talked about how enterprises need to truly understand what their data is worth to the business as they journey to cloud. But the shift toward cloud services and the leveraging of data as an asset changes another value proposition: Yours, as an IT professional.

Specifically, a cloud transformation redefines the skill sets that makes the CIO and other IT leaders valuable to an organization. The enterprise will always need IT leadership, but the challenge to current and rising leaders is to evolve our skills in pace with the business and IT organization’s needs.

For any IT leader, your career hinges on one question: “What’s my value proposition to the business stakeholder?” It may no longer be leading the creation and deployment of new in-house infrastructure and applications. Instead, it might be, “I can be the liaison with our external providers, because I understand both our business needs and the technology.”

That brings the focus to two overall skill sets: business communication and architectural thinking.

Manage relationships from an IT perspective

The big cloud-driven change, from building and managing stuff to building and managing relationships, has often been discussed. With a hybrid of on premises and cloud infrastructure, different considerations come into play, from internal and external relationships to budgets and timelines. Often-discussed factors in this shift include understanding:

  • Business needs and the many externally sourced options available to the business
  • Communicating the business value of IT in terms of contribution to the bottom line, not merely as overhead
  • Op-ex versus cap-ex budgeting and the financial implications of each
  • Contracts and how to structure service level agreements
  • How to orchestrate integrations, data and workflows among multiple vendors and solutions

While much of this is business— or relationship-focused, the technical side of the job is not vanishing. IT leaders remain the only people in the enterprise who have a full view of all the technology components, internal and external, and how they work together (or don’t) to provide value to the business. They see how each incremental development would improve — or detract from — the overall value IT delivers to the enterprise.

Which is where the second broad skill set comes in.

Think like an architect

Part of your evolving relationship with business stakeholders is managing new expectations around IT deployments. They’re no longer asking you, “How long to build functionality X.” They’re saying, “I want SaaS Solution Y, and I’m ready to expense it with my credit card today.”

Where the legacy of on-premise IT was a bunch of slowly constructed siloed systems that couldn’t interoperate, the potential legacy of the cloud era is… a bunch of rapidly adopted siloed systems that can’t interoperate. (Informatica CIO, Graeme Thompson calls this “SaaS sprawl”. Read his blog post.) Today’s IT leader has to translate the business’s specific technology imperatives into a cohesive architectural vision that isn’t quickly and easily derailed by random short-term solutions to individual challenges.

As my team has helped clients find their way to a cloud future, we’ve seen too many starting down the path to simply recreate in the cloud the same chaotic complexity that was the bane of their legacy architecture. Preventing that from happening is a primary value proposition of the new IT professional.

An IT leader is the only person who can understand the business strategy and the sprawling, semi-virtual infrastructure meant to serve it. No one else has that view of the enterprise.

Delivering on your promise

If your value to the enterprise is that you understand how to translate business needs into an optimal set of IT services delivered in a coherent, easily managed hybrid architecture, you’ve got to keep your eye on those two key things—the needs and the architecture.

Having discussed how a cloud transformation affects IT leaders, we’ll next look at the executive role that straddles not business and infrastructure, but business and data. Up next, some thoughts on how the chief data officer’s role is shaped by the enterprise’s ongoing cloud journey.

The idea of data as a business asset, much less the role of CDO, is so new that we haven’t seen a lot of these collaborations in fullest flower yet. But I’m convinced—and Informatica CIO Graeme Thompson assures me—that this is indisputably the next evolution of business and IT excellence.