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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Companies, IT Departments and Workers Need to Get in to the Cloud



cloud computing
cloud computing (Photo credit: kei51)
The cloud is here and businesses that don't change to incorporate it in private, public or some sort of hybrid are in trouble.  They'll be at a terrible disadvantage going forward as their competitors engage resources in the cloud that are unavailable on-premises.

For instance, if your company uses Microsoft software pay attention...  Microsoft originally built their software for on-premises deployment.  The whole suite of Microsoft Office server were local-only apps.  They recently changed to a hybrid software development approach and now many of those apps are being purpose developed specifically as cloud services.  Primary development for Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and the Service Center apps just to name a few are in the cloud.  You'll see features appear there before they appear in the periodic major point releases for on-premises installation.

This means that those businesses that are "in the cloud" will have access to features and capabilities well ahead of those that are not.  It also means that IT workers that only work with on-premises software are going to be woefully unprepared to support the new cloud-based versions.  They simply won't have access to the new software and won't know it.

So, what should companies do?  Get cloud help!  That may mean supplementing their own staff with cloud architects or subcontracting to consultants.  Their existing IT staff simply won't suffice without additional training, however.  Often, existing staff is already taxed and the prospect of coming up to speed on a whole new platform (which it is, by the way) and converting existing business processes is outside of their availability and capability both.

There's a reason why cloud consultants and consulting companies are in such high demand right now.  Similarly to how users demanded smartphones and tablets, executives and users are demanding the capabilities of cloud computing now.  They'll try it in small ways like e-mail and instant messaging and cloud services will eventually penetrate organizations from the top down and bottom up.  IT departments that have not prepared and IT workers that are untrained will be caught in the middle, being asked to do something they have no experience with.  At that point their choices are to outsource, train up, or fall behind.

Cloud services do indeed represent a sea change in IT services.  However, cloud is no panacea.  Most services are still better handled in house, but the list is continually shrinking.  I was once a Microsoft Exchange consultant... a fairly highly sought after skill.  I certainly wouldn't consider that my most marketable skill any more, though.  E-mail consultants without cloud skills are like cars with engines that need leaded gasoline or Betamax tapes... they've had their time and now its time to enter the 21st century.

Many other disciplines are experiencing similar changes.  Developers and infrastructure workers alike will need to update skills if they have not already.  Companies are demanding they do so and going in to denial won't save your job when your company decides to outsource e-mail management or web development.  It's better to be part of the change and help direct how cloud services are implemented than to have them forced on you.

So, get in to the cloud or get left behind, change waits for noone.
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