Arming yourself to succeed in the cloud

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Last updated 05:00 12/02/2015
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THE RIGHT PEOPLE: IT practitioners must see themselves as business people and technologists, and help to build bridges between business goals and technology solutions.

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Over this series of articles I've tried to paint a picture of what organisations will look like in the future. If you're an IT practitioner sitting in a traditional organisation, the reality of what it means to be an Uber, a Xero or a Netflix may very well feel like something from outer space!

So to close off, I'd like to focus on people - while we in the technology industry like to fixate on all the flashing lights and shiny toys, that's not what really moves the needle within an organisation. As the old Maori proverb goes, He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata! What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people! It is people! So let's look at what the skillset of a modern IT practitioner is, and what people can do to arm themselves for the coming changes.

When I think about an example of a traditional organisation (and the people within it) changing its culture and technology to be innovative and agile, I keep coming back to Warner Music Group. The company has, for close to 60 years, been one of the largest recording companies in the world - it is the epitome of a traditional organisation with traditional people and technology models.

Over the past few years, however, Warner Music has moved to a new model - a model that recognises the world is fundamentally changing and that their business needs to change in order to remain competitive. And if the business needs to change, then IT can be an enabler for that change. Interestingly (and more so since Warner Music has the luxury of being privately held and thus not required to disclose such things), the company has been quite public about its approach. Its CTO, Jonathan Murray, is a regular speaker at industry events where he explains the thinking and the process behind what they are building - a platform for the entire future of the company.

Murray often talks about the "composable enterprise", a subject I've reflected upon already in this series. But what the composable enterprise means for its people is interesting. Reflecting on the way people traditionally work within IT, Murray has written that:

"Our current IT services were built to serve a static - and often functionally silo'd - operating model. IT needs to become much more dynamically adaptable to keep pace with the speed of business today... A new approach to IT infrastructure, applications and services will be required to ensure that IT can deliver what the business needs. The time between identifying a business need and delivering the required IT solution needs to become hours and days, rather than months and years."

Thus the people working within IT need to become similarly agile. Technology is changing more rapidly than ever before and impacting every sector from banking to retail and government. IT practitioners need to embrace that change and try and keep in-step with these changes. No longer does our geographical isolation serve as an excuse for not being on the cutting edge of technology.

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At the same time, IT practitioners are becoming far more strategic and being seen as true partners for the business. For an IT practitioner to focus on technology in isolation, without an appreciation and understanding for how that technology can be applied to the business, is unacceptable. Rather IT practitioners must see themselves as business people AND technologists, and help to build bridges between business goals and technology solutions.

The challenges for today's IT practitioners looking at upskilling for a life in the clouds are large, but they also present great opportunities for personal and professional development. As the organisation changes to a much more flexible and distributed workforce, IT practitioners will need to think about supporting stakeholders across time zones and geographies - the nine to five norms of today's organisation will cease and mean that IT needs to think about around the clock support.

As organisations outsource more of their IT needs, practitioners will need to become far more business savvy - managing SLA's, liaising with suppliers and being an active part in scoping conversations with the business will all be a part of the broader IT role.

The future is intensely exciting, but it will also be a period of change and uncertainty. Rather than retreating into their comfortable space, IT practitioners have no option but to embrace the change, explore the unknown and help deliver the strongest possible outcomes for the future.

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