IT Staff Must Buy Into Cloud Moves

In addition to dealing with user resistance, CIOs need to gain the support of IT staffers to successfully switch from in-house to cloud-based apps.

Information technology executives overseeing a corporate switch to cloud-based applications are generally ready on Day One to deal with security and compliance issues along with resistance from end users.

However, CIOs and IT managers also need to be prepared for another roadblock that could hinder or even doom a company's cloud computing plans: pushback from IT staffers.

When top executives decide to unplug on-premises servers, ditch the applications housed on them and adopt vendor-hosted software, the IT personnel that support and maintain those systems are bound to get nervous.

Doug Pierce, global IT director at Momentum Worldwide, a New York-based advertising and events marketing firm, said many of the company's 28 IT staffers raised concerns about job security as soon as they learned of plans to let cloud vendor Socialtext Inc. host Momentum's enterprise portal.

"Our IT employees had a lot of questions," Pierce said. "They flat-out asked, 'What does this mean for me and my job?' "

From the beginning, the company kept employees informed of the consequences of the move -- in this case, role changes for eight members of the staff, he said. "Keeping [the process] very open and making sure IT employees understood was very helpful to our department's successful transition," Pierce added.

The IT leaders at San Jose-based electronics manufacturer Sanmina-SCI Corp. also say openness with employees was helpful in moving from an on-premises Microsoft Outlook/Exchange system to hosted Google Apps offerings.

"IT is becoming more of a service-oriented organization, providing more value-added services, with less emphasis on [maintaining in-house] systems, networks and architectures," said Sanmina-SCI CIO Manesh Patel.

Cost was an important factor for Sanmina-SCI, and it's what initially drove the move to the cloud, but Patel said the company sought longer-term value by making its 700 IT workers more productive and effective. "Make sure you communicate those things and provide the vision of what that means," he added.

At some companies, like Duralee Fabrics LLC in Bay Shore, N.Y., there was little pushback from IT personnel. CIO Bill Kelly noted that the six-person staff was "thrilled" that an overtaxed on-premises e-mail system was replaced with Google Apps.

Perez is a reporter for the IDG News Service.

This story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an earlier version that first ran on Computerworld.com.

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