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The changing world of business IT
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 00:00
Written by Staff writer
Mobile devices and cloud technology have fundamentally altered IT
The advent of tablet devices and the increasing popularity of cloud services have forced companies to reassess the way their IT is delivered and supported.
IDC’s iView “Extracting Value from Chaos” paper, published June 2011, reveals the current and future state of information growth, its drivers, challenges, and business IT coping strategies.
It states that while 75% of the information in the digital universe is generated by individuals, enterprises have some liability for 80% of information in the digital universe at some point in its digital life.
It explains that the number of ‘files’, or containers that encapsulate the information in the digital universe, is growing even faster than the information itself, as more and more embedded systems pump their bits into the digital cosmos.
In the next five years, the report claims, these files will grow by a factor of eight, while the pool of IT staff available to manage them will grow only slightly.
Other challenges include data protection and storage capacity concerns.
The report indicates that less than a third of the information in the digital universe can be said to have at least minimal security or protection; only about half the information that should be protected is protected.
Furthermore, the growth of the digital universe continues to outpace the growth of storage capacity.
In order to adequately sustain and increase data value, businesses have been looking to employ third party solutions and services to handle its server, network and storage needs. Not only does such a model help increase efficiency and agility across all areas of the organisation, it drives down costs and frees up funds for new business initiatives and innovation.
According to an EMC white paper published this year: “Capitalising on cloud: Preparing people and processes for IT’s organisational challenge”, there are several reasons why cloud technologies and IT as a service (ITaaS) are so transformative:
• Inputs – More services are available and sourced externally, and IT has to compete for the business’s business. IT needs an outside-in focus and the collaborative skills to maintain it.
• Processes – The transition to business services affects the entire IT value proposition and operating model, including the skills of the IT staff and the very nature of IT solutions.
• Outputs – This isn’t just a change in how IT provides services, but in how the business consumes them. The business and IT have to adjust roles and expectations together.
So, what skills are required by new IT professionals to assist the organisation through such a transformation?
An ESG white paper, published in August 2011: “Cloud Revolution: Transitioning to the cloud-ready IT organisation” identifies three core skill areas that are fundamental to the successful transition to a cloud environment. These include:
• Core virtualisation skill sets: IT professionals must think and operate in the virtual world. No longer can they be tied to the old paradigm of physical assets dedicated to specific users or applications. They must think in terms of “services” riding on top of a fully virtualised infrastructure, and how applications will take advantage of shared resources with both servers and storage. This requires comprehensive skills in both server and storage virtualisation technology, and enough experience as a practitioner to understand the intricacies and critical elements of managing virtual platforms.
• Cross-training competency: Leaders of IT innovation cannot be completely siloed and hyper-focused.
Although there will still be a need for deep domain expertise, the architects who lead the transition must have broad skills. They must understand enough about security, networking, storage, servers, databases, and applications to develop a vision and look at infrastructure holistically. As infrastructure is deployed and managed, these lead architects will then consult with, and rely on, domain experts. To broaden their skills, it will be necessary for IT professionals to invest time in acquiring skills in fields adjacent to their own.
• Business skills: IT professionals will take on the role of business advisors, and in some ways, “brokers” of services. They must collaborate with line-of-business and application owners, guiding the discussion to answer the questions: “Where should this workload run?”, “Cloud or dedicated?”, “Public? Private? Hybrid?” The new architect will be part technologist, part product manager, and part salesperson, helping assess needs and guiding end-users to the appropriate technology solution for a set of business requirements. The requirements include not only communication and customer service skills, but also business analytics and finance, in order to align the right solution to end-user budgets.
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