The Impact of Cloud Computing on Staffing

Cloud computing requires different skills than established enterprises have. IT leaders are accountable for service quality to customers; yet cloud diminishes control over those services. Cloud does offer the potential to enhance business agility, innovation, and reduce costs, but you may find that your staff is optimized for directly managing systems and components. They may not be ready to manage services and service providers indirectly. You may discover that rather than staff reductions, you need to create new roles with new skills, especially since cloud vendors may not describe the “hidden” costs as much as they describe the promise of staff and cost reduction.

To quantify staffing changes in the context of moving to cloud computing, you need to identify your staffing requirements. Develop stress tests that exercise your existing service management capabilities — staff, processes, tools, and values — as you evaluate cloud utility and warranty. Regardless of any staff reduction from cloud computing, you will most likely need to adjust your IT talent —  and this may require significant staff changes. It also often means reassigning traditional IT work like infrastructure provisioning to other teams.

What You Need to Know

Cloud computing is disruptive to many customers, consumers, and providers. Disruptive technology often signals standardization, cost benefits, and improved reliability or performance. For these reasons you cannot ignore cloud. Within the cost benefits are promises of reductions in staffing. Cloud computing changes staffing requirements but doesn’t always reduce the total number of staff. In many cases you’ve got to change headcount allocations to match shifting responsibilities.

Many IT organizations are not prepared to take full advantage of cloud computing. Research shows that frequently existing resources (staff, technology, etc.) and capabilities (training, skills, etc.) are inadequate to manage services and service providers effectively — a prerequisite for success with cloud computing. Managing an IT system isn’t the same as managing services. Don’t assume that experience with application service providers means your team is ready for cloud service management.

A cloud computing “proof of concept” can help you make more informed decisions regarding staffing and skills. Successful cloud initiatives come from pilots. Often these pilots require dedicated teams. Be sure to approach pilots in the right way. A well staffed and funded pilot results in better evaluation of cloud computing Return on Investment (ROI) and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

What You Need to Do

Cloud requires a very different approach to IT. This is especially true to established enterprises. Analysis of successful cloud initiatives shows a pattern. The biggest obstacles are organizational, not technical — specifically, the ability to understand and manage customer expectations. New teams (some often outside of traditional IT) need new skills and abilities. Development and operations need to work as one team. This means that staffing of most IT organizations has to change. Start your cloud initiative thinking about organizational knowledge, skills, and abilities, not technology:

  1. Analyze the different resources and capabilities you’ll need to get the most benefit from cloud computing. Don’t count too heavily on big staff reductions when moving to cloud services. In fact, assume that headcount will remain mostly flat. Do expect to shift headcount to other areas. Take into account the additional workload assigned to other teams. This extra workload may require additional headcount.
  2. Assume you’ll incur additional costs in your cloud migration: staff, tools, and training to transition from direct management to indirect management of IT systems and services. Don’t forget about the new skills required for managing suppliers, customer expectations etc.
  3. Investigate the need for new and different capabilities from your service desk function, event, incident, problem, service level, and supplier management processes. The ability to measure and manage service quality of experience (QoE) as well as quality of service (QoS) is critical. QoE refers to customer/business satisfaction with the solution. Their ability is to get the job done. QoS refers to the operation of the cloud systems. QoE isn’t the same as QoS. Your existing staff and processes may be insufficient for cloud computing.
  4. Assess IT organizational capabilities to be certain of your staff. Be sure they’ve got the maturity to work together to manage by service vs. system or components. Use assessment tools to assess your maturity around Service Level Management (SLM). SLM is one of the keys to success with cloud. SLM for cloud requires across the company interaction. Many IT organizations are not staffed or experienced to manage customer expectations.
  5. Start now by forming a cloud initiative. The best time to learn about what it will take to benefit from cloud delivery models — and the implications of how to staff — is now, before cloud computing is thrust upon you. This will give you the time to evaluate existing staff capabilities and determine future capabilities required to manage cloud offerings. Most likely they’ll need additional knowledge and skills.

Related Courses
Cloud Computing and Virtualization Foundations
Cloud Computing Essentials

In this article

Join the Conversation