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How the cloud can make IT shops more innovative

Sharon Gaudin | June 19, 2014
Jobs at many IT departments have been primarily about maintenance -- handling crashed email systems, ever-expanding security perimeters and users who bringing their own devices to the office

"IT can spend less money on operations and put it toward applications," said Lydia Leong, an analyst with research firm Gartner. "You are likely to turn some of your staff. The people who are great at pushing buttons on a GUI are often not people who become great innovators."

For instance, when IT shops are able to remove operations people, they might replace them with applications specialists who can deliver new business value.

As a result, the type of IT workers that enterprises will be looking for is likely to change.

"Essentially, the demand for IT workers will be focused on the top of the ladder," said Leong. "Companies will need people who are architects and who are good at talking to business types. The top people are still necessary. The people who do desktop support are typically still necessary, if they haven't already been outsourced."

However, she added that IT workers who specialize in providing hands-on, maintenance-type services will not generally have many career paths in major organizations going forward. Of course, cloud providers will be hiring some of these IT workers, since they'll be taking the maintenance work off the enterprise's hands.

That scenario means a lot of IT people should update their skill sets.

"The entire culture of IT is shifting away from people who are good with dealing with machines," Leong said. "You need more than those technical skills... I think the new IT model employee is proactive rather than reactive. He thinks about the business. He knows how the business operates. He's as much a guy who knows about the organization and business as he does about tech."

The first wave of this move already has begun, said Jeff Kagan, an independent analyst.

The analysts noted that companies aren't eager to talk about not having been innovative or about the possibility of letting go of IT workers so they can hire others.

"We started out 20 years ago just computerizing, and now companies basically are where they need to be to take it to the next level," he said. "You either get trained and evolve or you get lopped off."


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