Lately, as I read forum posts or hear more people discussing how cloud computing will affect the role of IT, I think of light bulbs. Burnt out light bulbs. One of the arguments is that cloud will "enable" IT (an alarming number of people use the verb "force") to become more focused on strategy and less focused on the operational and maintenance aspects of IT.
There are many, many things that I find perplexing about these assertions. The implication I find most annoying is the feeling that this is a potential change happening *TO* IT and that IT is resistant. It reminds me of a version of the old "changing a light bulb" joke. In this case, the joke runs:
Question: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Just one. But the light bulb has to want to change.
While there will definitely be a number of IT organizations who think that their job is to "run the data center" and are happy to keep focusing on servers rather than services, I believe that most IT shops will welcome the automation and efficiencies introduced by implementing BSM strategies that incorporate virtualization and cloud computing strategies.
IT shops that think of public cloud solutions as direct competition rather than as a supplement to how and what they're providing may be the kind of IT organization that’s not providing much value other than provisioning servers and applications. But I think that the vast majority of IT organizations are providing a lot more value than that. IT organizations are providing application development, technical consulting, management of IT suppliers, as well as IT governance, compliance and security, and on and on.
In terms of "attitude”, I also believe that most IT professionals want to do something more interesting and challenging than hand-crafting solutions and fighting fires in a reactive way day after day. I've done it before and "the thrill" wears off pretty quickly.
I do believe that the ability for business users to "by pass" enterprise IT in favor of public cloud providers for certain kinds of demands (such as IaaS) will put pressure on IT to think differently about how it supports the business and what kinds of computing happens in-house on more traditional environments vs virtualized, cloud-based computing. But I think the move to IT providing higher level value and evolving as a profession began well before cloud. It began with things like CoBIT and ITIL and BSM solutions. Cloud may help move the maturation of IT as a profession, but cloud is a factor, not "the" driver.
By the way, the other analogy that sometimes comes to mind is the railroad industry. There is a well-worn business school study about how the railroad companies in the United States ultimately floundered because they failed to recognize that they weren't in the railroad business. They were in the shipping and transportation business. But because they were so rigid in their thinking they didn't adapt to the changes to shipping and transportation caused by the introduction of automobiles, trucks and roads.
Let's hope IT leaders are more flexible thinkers than those railroad leaders (or light bulbs)!
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