3 Things I&O Must Do to Remain Relevant in the Cloud Era

An effective move to public cloud requires profound changes in the structure, missions and roles of and within IT organizations. Infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders must implement these changes to ensure the ongoing success of their cloud strategies and the relevance of their organizations.

Cloud adoption will succeed in the long term, but only if IT organizations make fundamental changes. Cloud initiatives falter without clearly defined leadership or identified expertise to guide the organization’s efforts. Because IT nearly always leads the cloud transformation, IT organizations should be among the first to realign their component roles, missions and organizational structure to complement cloud’s critical success factors.

“Although existing infrastructure and operations (I&O) activities must continue for some time, most enterprises will adopt an internal cloud service brokerage model,” says Craig Lowery, VP Analyst, Gartner. “I&O teams could eventually be displaced if they do not focus on maintaining their relevance.”

To ensure the long-term viability of infrastructure and operations (I&O) teams as the implementers of cloud strategy, I&O leaders must take the following three steps:

1. Call yourself “infrastructure and cloud services”

Stop calling yourself “infrastructure and operations” and reposition yourself as “infrastructure and cloud services” by sourcing experienced cloud leaders to drive the initiative. Heavily vet external candidates for a balance of organizational and technical skills, or pair an internal, organizationally adept champion with counterparts in an external consultancy or managed service provider.

Many enterprises take a first run at cloud computing assuming it can be rolled up under existing organizations as is, perhaps requiring some simple skills updates. They soon find that the biggest problems are not of a technical nature, but usually involve human behavior and organizational friction.

There are two things you can do to avoid problematic situations:

  • Rebrand your organization internally as the infrastructure and cloud services team, moving “up the stack” yet remaining inclusive of I&O. This forms a center of gravity for cloud deliberations and fills the void where a lack of ownership may be perceived.
  • Designate and empower a cloud champion who can identify problems early on and break through roadblocks when they do occur.

What is clear is that the value delivered by the I&O team today will shift to be subordinate to a cloud brokerage team over time, and I&O leaders should be the ones to proactively build that brokerage.

2. Build and own a cloud center of excellence

As cloud services continue to gain momentum and on-premises infrastructure loses focus, the traditional mission of an I&O team becomes less important to the organization it serves. I&O must evolve to remain relevant by curating and administering the new sources of IT’s underlying engine: cloud services. Continue the relevance of your I&O organization in a DevOps culture by building and operating a cloud center of excellence (CCOE) and the attendant cloud service brokerage, through which the CCOE delivers customized, integrated and aggregated cloud services.

I&O leaders must maintain an organizational balance to support activities across all aspects influenced by the cloud. The mission statement should emphasize hybrid and multicloud strategic goals.

Clearly “operations” remain important, but the new model must comprehend managing and maintaining a collection of services, not just building and operating servers and disks or engaging in other low-value activities.

3. Reevaluate and restructure team member roles

Understand the balance of required current and new cloud skills, retiring old roles and functions and replacing them with new ones. Where possible, update roles with adjacent skills that are applicable to traditional public cloud infrastructure and platform services (CIPS) and software as a service (SaaS) operations.

No single answer meets every need. In general, considering most enterprises’ mix of traditional and cloud-native applications, roles must shift to support different use cases. Across the spectrum, roles will most likely evolve, though some may disappear or be altogether new. Your organization may have multiple people assigned to these roles or multiple roles assigned to the same individual. The mapping isn’t as important as the coverage, and it should be adjusted based on your organization’s size.

Keep in mind that changes in roles and responsibilities require new and updated skills. These skills can be obtained through formal or on-the-job training or through cloud-focused training events if they are adjacent to existing skills in current roles and the timeline allows for it. Many skills are best sourced through new hires or engaging a managed service provider. Consider cloud service providers and managed service providers as extensions of your organization in many respects, partnering with them for many of the roles.