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December 3, 2009

Cloud computing brings IT and business closer

IT skills must change as a result

By Vinod

Cloud computing brings IT departments closer to the business, but not all techies are happy to make the switch, according to early end-user adopters.

This was just one of the conclusions drawn from a debate between companies in the midst of wide-scale cloud projects at the Business Cloud Summit in London this week.

Paul Cheesborough, CIO of the Telegraph Media Group, said that his company’s ongoing move to cloud computing had shifted the role of his department.

“Within our company we’re moving away from keeping the lights on to business enablement; 95% of our focus was around budget and keeping the lights on – now that’s 50%. My department is far more relevant now than a couple of years ago and cloud is part of that,” said Cheesborough.

He acknowledged, however, that implementing cloud services was not without its challenges. End-user management around the deployment of this technology has been a challenge and writing and understanding the requirements upfront and tracking the benefits. But what you do get is pace and velocity,” he said.

That pace and velocity was helping the Telegraph respond more quickly to business change.

Alan Lee-Bourke, CIO of Scottish charity The Wise Group, which helps unemployed people get back into work, is in his second year of a three-year mission to empty the server room through cloud adoption. “I’ve always been trying to find ways of making data a tangible asset and when I’m mucking around with kit I can’t do it. When I told staff [about the move to cloud computing] I said everything we’re doing now will be in a skip in six months,” said Lee-Bourke.

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Getting rid of the kit has enabled staff to focus on delivering KPIs and engaging with the business.

Richard Britton, IT Director of ISP Easynet Connect and UK Online, appreciated the changes to his role post-cloud and the fact that IT “hygiene” projects really were hygiene projects. This has freed up time for his department to deliver business analysis and to get under the skin of the company’s data requirements and integrating the cloud applications with on-premise systems.

“The role of the CIO has changed and the type of person who wants to do it has changed. With the cloud you need a much greater interest in consulting with the business,” said Britton.

But the changes aren’t just needed at the top. Cloud will change the skills mix required across the IT department. “When we started to move to the cloud we realised our resource mix wasn’t quite right,” explained Britton. “High-quality business analysis is becoming more important and understanding integration and data analysts that cross over to business analysts – it’s a change but not a revolution in terms of skills.”

But it’s a change that doesn’t suit everyone and Easynet found that some people did leave as a result of cloud adoption.

Cheesborough agreed that the greatest resistance to cloud services came from within his department rather than users. His approach was to drip-feed services one at a time. Even so, said Cheesborough: “Some people didn’t make the transition, but the benefits are worth it in the end.”

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