More businesses are swapping out their traditional IT infrastructure for cloud services that offer faster deployments, lower upfront costs and reduced maintenance. But enterprise IT professionals panicking about their jobs getting outsourced to cloud service providers are likely to feel threatened.
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The more application- or role-specific IT roles are within an enterprise, the better the chance that cloud services could edge out an IT position, said James Staten, vice president and principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.
"An email administrator that just manages Exchange is scared to death of his business moving to Office 365," Staten said. The same can be said for other roles, such as disaster recovery specialists or Windows systems administrators.
Cloud providers that work alongside internal IT teams -- rather than stepping on their toes -- will be in a better position to foster a more positive relationship with their business customers and to encourage enterprise cloud adoption.
Growing enterprise cloud adoption: Letting the business be the cloud broker
Cloud providers are not the only threat to in-house IT. Business departments and users within the enterprise are beginning to bypass IT altogether, purchasing cloud services and software applications on their own as the need arises. Internal IT teams have to be responsive to their users' needs, regardless of job security fears, and cloud providers have the opportunity to help IT determine the most appropriate cloud services for their environment from a cost and security standpoint, said Kent Christensen, virtualization practice manager for Datalink, a data center infrastructure and cloud service provider based in Eden Prairie, Minn.
Datalink has a consulting arm for business customers designed to train IT teams to become "brokers" of cloud services, Christensen said. It's a model that other cloud providers can follow to get IT to view them more as partners than usurpers.
"Business units can come to IT with their needs, and we can help build appropriate services [that IT] can supply to their users that [are] lower cost, agile and with a higher level of security; so both [the cloud providers that make the sale and IT] can be happy," he said.
Providers can also position their services as a way to outsource time-consuming operational tasks and free up IT pros to focus on new or bigger projects.
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"IT is trying to do less of the mundane tasks, and that's where cloud providers can help," Christensen said.
Enterprise cloud adoption won't blossom overnight, but IT will be more likely to trust a provider that has worked as a team with internal administrators from the beginning of the relationship, said Cliff Grossner, directing analyst of data center and cloud for Campbell, Calif.-based Infonetics Research Inc.
"Providers should look for the significant pain points that an enterprise has and put together an offering that addresses those needs in a focused fashion for IT," he said. "If a provider suggests too many services at once, the recommendations will become suspect, and IT won't have the right comfort level to continue business with that provider."
Help define IT's new role
The cloud model requires a cultural shift for many IT professionals, but providers can help those with more specialized roles understand that the cloud doesn't have to make their jobs obsolete, Forrester's Staten said.
"If IT [professionals want] to stay in a technical role, they can spread their skills across a greater set of services with the help of a provider," he said. "Instead of an email administrator being scared of the company outsourcing email, the administrator can focus on the things that are unique to their company, like archiving and encrypting email."
Hybrid cloud offerings can also help ease these fears. IT can still have a firm level of control over their applications, and providers will be able to make the sale without jeopardizing anyone's livelihood, said Amy Larsen DeCarlo, principal analyst for security and data center services at Washington, D.C.-based Current Analysis Inc.
"Providers need to give customers a sense of confidence, and [they can] do this by offering services that allow IT to maintain control and security," she said.