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Joe Onisick
Joe Onisick
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The Biggest Threat to Your Private-Cloud Deployment: Your IT Staff

Your IT staff is likely full of technologists, which won't help you find success with a private-cloud deployment. Here's why shifting to an IT service catalog approach may ease your transition to the cloud.

People are the No. 1 reason why private clouds fail. The traditional IT staff is a tactically driven, deeply technical group of hardware and software problem solvers who aren't familiar with strategic IT thinking and don't have time for it. They aren't accustomed to aligning IT processes with business drivers. They're more comfortable with explaining why something can't be done than finding a way to make it happen. And they will be the downfall of your private cloud deployment.

This isn't their fault. They're working in a world with enough fires to put out that they don't have time to be forward thinking. They're IT MacGyvers, keeping your disparate systems and technology silos running with minimal budgets. They're trying to keep enough abreast of the next big IT wave so they can try and surf it when it's dropped on them unexpectedly and without their input. They're an impressive bunch, but as it stands right now they will fail you.

This doesn't have to be the case. With some understanding and organizational modifications, your IT staff can accelerate your private cloud journey rather than anchor the ship. In order to do this, two major mind-set changes must be fostered: the shift from reactive to proactive, and the shift from policy pushers to service providers. IT must realize that the business is its customer, and if customers aren't happy, they'll shop elsewhere.

The IT staff will need to be mentored into a more business-focused approach. This will require closer ties to individual business units in order to understand their needs. IT will need to develop a service catalog that's relevant to their users and simple enough for them to understand and deploy. For example, a series of AV, firewall and other options for a new desktop can be confusing to a non-techie, but a "security" option that includes all of these as an IT approved package makes sense.

In order to become adept at this, IT will have to adapt. This won't be welcome by all staff members. You'll find many team members who are eager to expand their skill sets and become more business focused. You'll find others who truly enjoy the technical side and wish to stay deeply involved with the technology itself. There's room for both--the key is to identify who's who based on desire and aptitude.

Keep the process fluid as you move forward, and keep IT staff heavily involved. IT staff members should be your biggest evangelists of the platform as they flesh it out. Create constant, minimally invasive feedback loops between the IT staff members designing the service offerings and the business leaders who will be the consumers--as with any business, a service is only as good as the demand for it.

If staff members understand the reasoning for a transition to a business-first attitude, they'll be more likely to get on board. From there, you'll be able to begin discerning which staff members fit in more business-oriented roles, and which will maintain the keys to the techie kingdom. Don't worry--there will be plenty for the true geeks to do as you roll in new hardware and software to consolidate, standardize, virtualize, automate and orchestrate.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended as an endorsement for any vendors, services or products.

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Joe Onisick
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Joe Onisick,
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7/13/2012 | 5:10:05 PM
re: The Biggest Threat to Your Private-Cloud Deployment: Your IT Staff
Sash,

Thanks for the reply, and I can definitely see the title starting some fires. Then again it's intent is to get people to read the post, not fire off comments about the title. Thanks for reading.

Joe
Sash
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Sash,
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7/12/2012 | 11:56:54 PM
re: The Biggest Threat to Your Private-Cloud Deployment: Your IT Staff
Great post Joe, although I have to agree with some of the other readers that the title is sure to draw some rebuttals and criticism, your comments about IT staff becoming internal service providers offering a Catalog of IT Service Offerings to the business is spot on! Having played roles on both sides (business and IT) I could see and feel the pain on both sides. Indeed this was our motivation to invest in and develop tools that allow this "IT transformation" to occur. IT needs to maintain control over IT assets of the business if they are to be held responsible for the enterpise's information, so they must be part of the solution to the private cloud. This will happen when the business starts to see them as a Service Provider, and IT sees the business as their customer.

If any of your readers are interested check out Cloud Manager @ www.ambernettech.com.
Mike Fratto
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Mike Fratto,
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7/9/2012 | 1:13:09 PM
re: The Biggest Threat to Your Private-Cloud Deployment: Your IT Staff
Steve, the point "that buy-in is key to the success of a project is a really old one and one that most of us IT writers have stressed for decades" has to be repeated over and over because there are always new (and old) IT folks that forget that fact.

But it's not one way, either. The communication failure is two way and the sticky parts in the middle are the problem because each side gets mired in their own weeds. IT technologists tend to go right into problem solving and implementation. Business folks focus more on goals and outcomes without understanding the complexities required to carry out goals.

What is needed is the right level of discussion and someone, likely at the manager level, by someone (or a bunch of someones) that can look across the swath of business and IT demands and match up business goals with IT deliverable. IOW, break out of silos and open up communication.

IT needs to understand the functions that the business needs and then go deliver them. The business needs to understand the functions that IT can deliver and see if there are gaps that need to be closed. What neither side needs is to peek under each others skirts.
Joe Onisick
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Joe Onisick,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/9/2012 | 1:42:56 AM
re: The Biggest Threat to Your Private-Cloud Deployment: Your IT Staff
Greg,

As usual you're coming off quite bitter, in this case however you're missing the point which you rarely do.
First making such a negative blanket statement about management is bad form and in my experience would speak more to your attitude than management capabilities (solve for common denominator.)
As far as the rest of your comment I definitely donG«÷t believe that management is: G«ˇinfallible, all knowing and capableG«÷ nor do I imply that. IG«÷m also not attacking IT staff. I have a great deal of respect for IT staff from admin to engineer and beyond. I spent many years in that position before finding IT roles I personally enjoyed more. Before you twist that; I didnG«÷t say roles I find to be better.
The point of the post is that if a private cloud path is chosen (by anyone, management or otherwise) the IT staff who understands the business and applications must be involved at a deep level and on board. As stated in my post they will need to be the evangelists of the platform.
This post is a call to avoid the G«ˇthrow it over the fenceG«÷ mentality that is prevalent in IT. This post is a call to action for collaboration and cooperation between management and IT staff that is applicable beyond cloud deployments but focused there for brevity. Unfortunately you missed the point because the title, which is intended to stress importance and grab attention, was not to your liking.

Joe
Etherealmind
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Etherealmind,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/7/2012 | 2:20:37 PM
re: The Biggest Threat to Your Private-Cloud Deployment: Your IT Staff
I agree with Steve. You couldn't denigrate the contribution of engineering any more and be polite. In particular, you treat managers as if they are infallible, all knowing and capable.

This sort of arrogance from people who believe that management has all the answers when, in my experience, management is largely staffed by people who are least competent or poorly equipped to make the transition to a new platform.

Response coming.
SGHill-NWCmod
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SGHill-NWCmod,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/7/2012 | 4:22:10 AM
re: The Biggest Threat to Your Private-Cloud Deployment: Your IT Staff
Lol Joe,

Is it possible that I might have missed the "true deeper meaning" of your piece because it was so poorly expressed? It's easy to confuse being controversial with being inflammatory for the sake of it, so perhaps you deserve a pass. That being said, your argument that buy-in is key to the success of a project is a really old one and one that most of us IT writers have stressed for decades; you only spiced it up by applying "cloud".

The real question is why you chose to take such an attack-like stance instead of a more advisory one. My dislike for the tone of this piece is what prompted my response, and this kind of headline is typical of what is worst in the news industry today. Characterizing the lion's share of IT professionals as inflexible and unwilling to adopt new technology is a stance I just couldn't leave unchallenged. There are many of us, myself included, that can occasionally use a nudge to extend beyond our comfort zones, but to characterize a company's IT staff as their "Biggest Threat" is just plain ludicrous. (To quote your very self...).

But let's leave it up to our readers... does anyone out there agree with Joe that I missed the point - or do you think that perhaps Joe missed the point of my response?

Steven Hill - NWC Moderator
Joe Onisick
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Joe Onisick,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/6/2012 | 11:01:22 PM
re: The Biggest Threat to Your Private-Cloud Deployment: Your IT Staff
Steven,

I believe you missed the point of the post. In no way am I negating the expertise, importance or effort of IT staff, see paragraph 2. Instead I'm stating that they must be involved at a deep level and on board with the project rather than the 'throw it over the fence' mentality you get with your so-called 'seagull consultants.'

In fact your response is a perfect example of the danger. Some IT staff without fully taking the time to understand the purpose and the facts can begin undermining the project from the start, much as you did with this post.

Joe
SGHill-NWCmod
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SGHill-NWCmod,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/6/2012 | 5:56:03 AM
re: The Biggest Threat to Your Private-Cloud Deployment: Your IT Staff
But of COURSE the failure of an internal cloud is the fault of the existing IT staffG«™ it could never have anything to do with the limitiations of the cloud, the poor choices made by management OR over-hyping by cloud vendors. There could NEVER someone at staff-level that could POSSIBLY understand the magnificent magic that is cloud; but of course anyone with a one-note song like cloud could easily walk into any given business environment and work wonders that the existing staff never could.

You may not have been around the industry long enough to have heard this tune before, but many of us have experienced it over and over again. An IT leader comes in with a "miracle-worker" consultant who can magically understand the subtleties of an existing business and IT environment in the space of a few power-lunches. This kind of seagull consulting, (i.e. - flapping in, making a lot of noise, pooping on everything and flying away clean) is a common occurance and there are loads of companies that have flushed millions down that particular porcelain hole.

Contrary to what you might believe, many professionals in the IT industry actually DO care about improving the existing environment, work closely with business teams to accomplish goals and still find the time to read about and understand the same technology that you do; while at the same time dealing with internal politics, decreasing budgets and constantly shifting management goals. Setting them up to blame for the failure of a cloud initiative is a cheap shot; and I, for one, challenge you to prove it with hard facts.

Steven Hill - NWC Moderator.
Joe Onisick
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Joe Onisick,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2012 | 4:49:15 PM
re: The Biggest Threat to Your Private-Cloud Deployment: Your IT Staff
Phil,

Thanks for the feedback. It sounds like you work in a very typical environment in which requirements are 'thrown over the fence.' This makes it difficult to impossible to provide valuable services to the business.

Moving forward into a service focused IT environment such as private cloud companies will need to more tightly tune the IT deployment/development staff to the business analysts and users. The service requesters will need a better understanding of the It language and vice versa. Luckily this cross functional knowledge is much harder to oustsource then a base IT skill.

Joe
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