Staffing IT for Emerging Technologies

As CIOs contemplate the “Cloud” migration tsunami, they’re faced with a unique challenge: how to transition their current operating model to the next generation. The reaction of many is to bring in new people as subject matter experts (SMEs) to help drive and manage the change. This can be seen as a way to increase adoption and lower risk; however, the opposite may be more of the truth in the stark reality of the modern IT operation.

The standardization of hardware and software has facilitated the massive growth of application and the huge demand on IT eco-systems, which is continuing to accelerate. However, the primary function of any IT group is to drive value for the business. There are many examples:

  1. Mobile applications for health care allows doctors and patients to communicate more effectively
  2. Mobile banking created an entire generation that hardly ever goes to the bank, they simply take a picture of their checks to deposit funds
  3. Social Media applications (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) did not exist a decade ago, but now few of us can say we are not users

The implications moving ahead are even more revolutionary. Consider the affect of Near Field Communications (NFC) on retail promotions when coupled with instant real-time predictive business intelligence (BI) functions. I can see a world where retailers ensure that consumers are presented with deals on products specific to their needs as they roam a retail store floor or use a search engine. Have you noticed that the signage inside of many stores is now digital and wireless?

So how does this tie back to the staffing of IT? Simple. The IT staff that has worked with and understands the CIO’s business has the institutional knowledge of what the company does to actually drive revenue and create value. It’s easier to train this team on new methods and processes to understand the new operational model than train a new group on the institutional knowledge. So if the investment is made to enable the team to understand the new model, and the new path for advancement is clear, then gaining the trust and support of this team will not only facilitate that change to a converged and standardized platform, but will help accelerate and expand adoption.

As a team is evaluated, and skills are considered, some of the transitions that make sense are:

  • Moving to an agile team development method – This will help shorten the time to deploy a new application, while building skills that will enable easier adoption of converged infrastructure.
  • Building an infrastructure team – This team would provide leadership and SME resources as a group, across network, storage, compute and virtualization practices. Moving away from management of each function in a silo will help deliver application platforms that focus on the end user consumption, not solely focused on discrete components.
  • Building a self-service team – This is the team that will assist developers and business leaders in the allocation and launching of new application platforms. They should consider the applicability of target platforms and work as business consultants to assess short-term needs and long term costs. This team can act as facilitators when self-service portals are available.
  • Form a strategic direction team – Create a team to understand and build metrics for overall application performance. These are essential metrics as application platforms evolve and adopt software defined networking on converged infrastructure. This team will need to understand how to manage application performance, and likely will be helping to drive standards with the agile teams.

The message is clear. The institutional knowledge of your existing staff is key to the success of the business. This knowledge often takes years to fully appreciate. In adopting new systems and technologies, do not discount this understanding. Augment staff with change agents and additional SMEs, but invest in strategic resources to help them leverage the new platforms with their in-depth knowledge of the business. Using converged infrastructure systems as the basis for a company’s internal platforms enables knowledgeable, key resources to focus on driving these teams and adding business value, rather than keeping the lights on.

About the Author: Frank O'Connor