Shift to cloud requires fresh IT skills

As organizations move more of their applications to the cloud, they might find themselves needing skills different from what their system administrators now possess, according to IT executive panel discussions on cloud computing on Wednesday.

"The role of the IT person is changing," said Greg Bouncontri, chief information officer for Pitney Bowes, during one panel on cloud computing at Wired magazine's CIO Leadership Forum in New York.

"There will be some skillset shifts within our organizations that will be needed," said Angelo Valletta, CIO of Sun National Bank, during a second panel.

Because the cloud will standardize infrastructure, so the collective thinking went, IT shops will spend far less time managing the servers and instead will need to focus on understanding how the multiple cloud offerings could work together and how they could be used to benefit their organizations, the panelists said.

Bouncontri said that while Pitney Bowes' IT personnel have traditionally concentrated on security and operational efficiency, now they also must find ways to use cloud IT services as a "catalyst for growth" for the company.

In other words, cloud services are creating a more competitive environment for the bank. Bouncontri described an unnamed new financial services company that used cloud service providers for most all of its IT services, including core banking, CRM (customer relationship management), Internet banking and mobile banking. Existing businesses will feel the pressure of startups rapidly lashing together existing cloud services to create new offerings, he noted.

"The role of IT will be much more about innovation," agreed Saad Ayub, CIO for the media company Scholastic. Today, CIO duties are largely centered around the management of information using industry processes such as the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) and the IT Information Library (ITIL). In the future, CIOs will have to think more about innovation as well, he said.

Cloud computing will also require more IT architecture skills than are commonly found in-house, the speakers also noted.

Fewer people will be needed to carry out the work of implementing programs, while more people would do the architecture work needed to tie together different cloud services, and to hook these services back to in-house systems, said Bob Kelly, a Microsoft vice president for server and cloud platform marketing, during his presentation at the conference.

Kelly heralded cloud computing as the next major shift in computing for the industry. Just as mainframes gave way to client-server computing in the 1990s, so too will most organizations move to cloud computing, at least for many of their applications. Such a dramatic change in styles of computing calls for changes in skillsets, he argued.

"Most of the work going forward will be integration, and architectural in nature. There will be a need for people in all levels who are thinking about a composite world. You have to think about how parts fit, which is an architectural mindset. It's not implementation of a feature, it's architectural in nature," Kelly said in a follow-up interview.

"The maturation of these technologies might lead us to a place where we [will] have less technical people in-house than we currently have," Bouncontri said. "Increasingly, our role will be on solution design. It's a different kind of skillset."

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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