Today, more and more companies are exclusively using cloud apps and services to run their business. But that doesn’t mean IT is pointless. In fact, if you use cloud applications and services for your business, your IT service department needs to be stronger and more dynamic than ever.
Instead of scuttling around a basement full of servers, the important people who make up your IT department will have an ever-growing and constantly changing list of responsibilities once your business makes its way completely into the cloud. These responsibilities will be focused on:
- supporting and training application end users
- enabling application mobility
- adding value through customization
Servicing the Cloud
The most essential role for IT in the age of the cloud is simple and, to many, obvious. While server maintenance might be a thing of the past, today’s IT department still has a responsibility to:
- monitor network performance
- maintain firewalls
- run audits
- fix bugs
- perform many other tasks that haven’t gone away merely because your business has moved to the cloud.
In fact, many of these responsibilities have grown as businesses have become more and more dependent on cloud technology. As applications become more interconnected, the value of maintaining those applications grows. For example, the negative effects of bugs that cause data to be compromised multiply when data is shared between ERP, CRM, Customer Service and HCM applications. It becomes essential to have IT professionals who know how to eliminate bugs and streamline the application experience for your company’s end users.
Training and Support
In almost every department, cloud apps will be an essential element of any project or initiative. Whether it’s something as simple as email or something as complicated as a company-wide ERP system, project managers rely on the cloud for success. But using new and complex applications can be intimidating for end users whose expertise lies far outside the technological sphere. In these cases, teams often need IT experts to train them and discuss best practices when it comes to using their apps. Without proper training and support, it’s very unlikely that any company using a cloud app will be able to realize the app’s full value.
It’s not just about convenience, either: without an expert to discuss protocol, there’s a chance that unknowing end users could compromise the security of the cloud environment.
Managing a Mobile Environment
In 2013, blogger Stuart Kippelman wrote this in a Computer World article titled “Cloud Computing Will Kill The Internet. True or False?”:
Think about the major shifts that have happened in the past. Standalone to the Internet, mainframes to servers, PCs to tablets, and phones to smartphones—each was supposed to make things easier, but instead it seems each has added to the complexity. The cloud will do the same.
Nowhere is the complexity of a cloud-enabled work environment more apparent than in the world of mobile devices. From security to email management to mobile programming, the business world’s “major shift” to the cloud only adds to the responsibilities of an IT department. Kippelman’s quote also speaks to a more general—but no less important—role that IT has always had in business. The IT team is there to understand the inevitable and rapid changes of a technological world moving forward at a frenetic pace. If for no other reason, you need IT so that the rest of your business can survive in the changing climate of business technology.
Adding Value Through Customization
For years, IT has been seen as the department that keeps things running smoothly. If IT wasn’t on people’s minds, that meant that the IT department was doing its job. In other words, rather than adding value, IT employees maintained a company’s technological environment to a minimum standard. It was an important duty, but one predicated upon preventing mishaps rather than developing ideas and contributing to the company’s bottom line. However, that has changed. In the world of cloud applications and services, leading IT departments must adapt to a new role, one that adds value in definable, important ways. The need for management and customization of large-scale cloud environments makes it necessary to have a capable and versatile IT squad.
A major advantage of cloud apps and services is scalability—the ability to reproduce the same application or service for a business of any size. With scalability, however, come limitations. The same qualities that make it easy to produce thousands of licenses for customers makes it difficult to customize and adjust those licenses to fit the specific needs of each department using them.
One of the main obstacles to large-scale cloud adoption, in fact, has been the lack of customizability, according to experts like TechTarget’s Christine Parizo. But many major cloud applications offer plenty of customization options. Here’s the catch: in order to take advantage of these customization options, you need IT professionals who know how to transform the app you bought out of the box into the app that will bring your enterprise to the next level.
IT departments haven’t gone away just because companies are moving decisively to cloud apps and services. However, the role of IT in the modern workplace has undergone a serious shift. While any change is difficult, optimists in the IT department can find multiple silver linings in the shift to the cloud. Indeed, it may help them envision a stronger, more dynamic, and more visible role for IT in the future.
The cloud-enabled IT department has a much more integrated, interactive role, providing essential training services to end users and project managers and putting a human face to IT. It will provide essential support services for the entire organization. It will enable and sustain workforce mobility, an imperative for any business in today’s world. It will add value and contribute to the enterprise’s bottom line by tailoring out-of-the-box apps to meet the specific demands of each and every different group of end users.
Of course, the role of IT in your business depends upon your specific needs. Small startups may not need a full-fledged IT department to manage their cloud apps and services, but might fit better with IT consultants who work with multiple small companies in similar positions. These are companies who don’t just manage cloud applications, but manage via cloud applications themselves.
Experienced business professionals have weathered many changes throughout their careers, but the massive shift to the cloud represented one of the largest in history. It’s so easy to purchase and use many basic cloud apps and services that the temptation to ditch IT entirely can be strong. However, once you take a closer look, you’ll realize that you need IT more than ever.