In a recent blog post, I raised the specter of cloud-induced IT admin obsolescence. As business application infrastructure becomes increasingly “cloudified,” automated and self-healing, there will likely be a corresponding drop in the need for classic IT administrator services. The good news is that IT pros have time. Most businesses are still a ways off from achieving cloud nirvana. So what can IT do during this transitional phase to adjust to life on the other side?
I recently spoke with a young CIO, Ryan Fay of ACI Specialty Benefits, who has overseen his organization’s transformation to a fully functioning IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) cloud environment. He was quick to point out that the journey to building a private cloud was a painstaking, multi-year effort, and not without its share of hiccups along the way. But the effort seems to be paying off in a big way. His organization’s application environment is incredibly resilient, efficient and performs consistently and optimally. And it’s maintaining application service excellence through explosive business growth (350% YoY growth).
So I had to ask him: What did you do to help your IT team change? How did it go from focusing exclusively on tech bits and bytes to looking at technology as a way to solve business problems?
After a long thoughtful pause, Fay said, ”You really have to get people to stop looking at technology as a means to an end, and instead as a means to a beginning."
After this Confucius-like aphorism, I asked what he did personally to help his folks start thinking more like business execs instead of tech nerds. What Fay said made a lot of sense:
Bring the IT crew into business meetings. This is a great forum for letting the IT team hear firsthand what challenges the business faces. In their case it has generally been making sure that the business can keep up with demand, particularly in light of their dizzying growth.
“Instead of me dictating to them what needs to be done from an individual task-level perspective to respond to the needs of the business, they can see the bigger picture and start thinking more creatively,” Fay said. So instead of just looking at one task in isolation, they can see how that particular task can be refined to improve processes upstream and downstream (again keeping the bigger business picture in mind).
Give IT a sense of business ownership. Take the team and try to do an offsite day or use Skype (if they’re remote) to bring them in. Figure out as a team on how to solve these business needs. Ask the group for input. Everyone comes up with a business idea, so everyone gets a sense of ownership.
Make professional development a priority. In addition to making sure that his team stays current with all the relative technical certifications, this CIO makes it a major priority to see how he can help facilitate their individual professional aspirations.
“I sit down with my individual team members, review their strengths and then identify what other areas they can get skills in and what they’d like to do over the next 12 months. I tell them that we want to make them the most marketable IT pro possible. And then we put a plan together to help them get there,” he said. This builds trust, loyalty and expert, tenured IT pros who grow along with the business.
So there you have it: Three proven ways to help IT transform during this turbulent cloud era.