How cloudy is your IT career?

I have heard a lot of conversations about the impact of the cloud on Information Technology (IT) careers. People are worried that the positions they hold in IT will be eliminated because “it’s in the cloud”. Even the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is being questioned. Like the REM song, some IT workers are seeing the end of the world as they know it. Not all of them feel fine, but I am not so sure it’s the end of the world; I think maybe the world has just rotated a bit, so I feel fine.

Let’s start with a definition of Information Technology. Based on Merriam Webster, information technology is the technology involving the development, maintenance, and use of computer systems, software, and networks for the processing and distribution of data, where technology is defined as the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area. Also consider the definition of engineering or the design and manufacture of complex products.

When I think of IT careers, I think of the Corporate IT department focused internally on the practical application of technology knowledge to run the applications and infrastructure that are used for the business operations of an enterprise from marketing through support. Engineering, on the other hand, is externally focused on creation of revenue generating (preferably) products offered to a targeted customer base often based on the use of computer systems, software and networks (IT). In some organizations the IT department supports engineering and sometimes it doesn’t, that is always an interesting conversation; is support of the infrastructure for Engineering an IT or an Engineering career, the activities are often quite similar and Engineering platforms are often good cloud candidates. So are IT or Engineering careers more affected by the cloud? I am not sure either, but let’s keep going.

Beyond IT support of engineering platforms as a career, there is career rotation going on from IT into Engineering. Take networking for example; it is a core competency for ensuring that clouds continue to float.

Capabilities are moving around, some things that used to be delivered in hardware are delivered in firmware and firmware in software (that’s why the word “mostly” is in the picture). But more important from an IT career perspective is the move of tasks that were done manually into software. Now instead of having an IT career in a company implementing and supporting their network you might rotate into a company developing a product that does what you used to do manually (isn’t that what technology is all about) and have an Engineering career, still technology focused just a little rotation. You can take this rotation to other information technology disciplines as well. Look at the whole concept of virtualization and the Engineering careers created from IT needs being looked at in different ways and solved through technology.

The use of the term information technology continues to become broader since computer systems, software and networks have become ubiquitous. You can be talking about the CIO and the Corporate IT department running your business (IT careers) or any aspect of technology used to run anything, anywhere, which for my purposes I am going to call Service Provider IT (SPIT). OK, maybe not the best acronym, how about IT Operations as a Service (ITOaaS).

Anyway, the cloud still runs on physical machinery; maybe fewer and larger but boxes are not going away any time soon. I think that is one of the biggest hypes about cloud, at the end of the day it’s still computer systems, software and networks, information technology. There will always be a requirement for installing new hardware and someone still has to use the wonderful products created by those IT to Engineering career rotations. The question is who’s going to be operating and supporting those boxes. If you are using public XaaS, then ITOaaS is included in your XaaS. The IT career doesn’t go away; it just rotates to your XaaS provider. Perhaps you are a company that provides an XaaS platform, then you will still require those IT operations skills within your organization, the only question is this an Corporate IT or an ITOaaS career. The needs still exist, it’s just a question of rotation of the world, or not.

One thing that you can be sure of, everything does not work perfectly all the time (remember Murphy’s Law). The cloud is founded on the concept of fault tolerance and high availability but I have experienced the finger pointing that occurs when an application is not working as expected. Every supplier claimed 100% uptime, but that was not my user’s experience. Who do you think those users are going to call? I suppose it depends on who has what contract with what provider. Your XaaS providers will be looking individually at their components, but you are the one with the vested interest in getting things running again. You need someone to drive the incident response. Take a look at the ITIL processes; I think many of them will still be performed within your company by IT professionals.

No matter if it’s public, private or hybrid; single or multi-tenant, the cloud runs on computer systems, software and networks (information technology) which are still designed, developed, delivered and supported by people. There are still plenty of career choices in the broad field of IT. It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

© Ellen Terwilliger 2012


Why. Now What?

According to Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People habit #2, you should start with the end in mind. While he’s talking about individuals, I think this is applies equally well to transformation programs. (Maybe all seven habits are applicable; I’ll have to check that out.) Anyway as they say in the army, you can’t hit a target you can’t see.

In an earlier blog Why Transform , we used an example to show that a picture is worth a thousand words to manifest your vision and allow people to internalize why to transform.


This is a great start, people can see what success looks like, staring with the end in mind like Steven Covey suggests. But this alone is not always enough to completely inform and empower people to do the right things and make the right decisions during your journey of change. I believe that the next step is to describe solutions that show what is required to get to your desired outcomes.

In the example, there are spaces that need to be filled in to allow us to get to that happy productive salesrep. Take a look at the four solution spaces described below and we’ll talk about each of them:

To realize the vision of One Cloud One Me, first you need to know “Who I am”. A lot of companies do a pretty good job of this; often there is a unique identifier and strong password that is proliferated around the many application systems allowing a single sign on (or in some cases sign on and on and on as my former colleague Leslie Thiel has been heard to say). So you might not need to do a lot of work on this space.

“What I do” can be a little trickier. Since you’re a very successful startup, it’s likely that these SaaS applications were purchased and implemented at different times as the need arose. It may also be the case that some applications were implemented by business groups and some by IT (Does that sound familiar to you IT people in the crowd?), heck maybe IT didn’t even exist at the company when some of these went live. In any case, what I do or my role may not be consistent between the applications. This is pretty straight forward to figure out in order to ensure that your various types of sales people (salesreps, territory managers, etc.) have the appropriate capabilities to do their job.

Now comes some more interesting stuff (remember interesting is the word that is used to mean that complexity and cost are staring to go up). “What I see” may be very different between the various clouds. For example, sales team may play a huge role in the opportunities I see in my sales force automation system (SFA: in the example) but sales team doesn’t exist in my enterprise resource planning system (ERP: NetSuite in the example), so unless I am the actual salesrep assigned to the deal, I may not be able to see when an order gets booked for the deal I sweated over. And therefore I’m worried I’m not going to get compensated properly by the incentive compensation or commissions system (IC: Callidus in the example) since that’s in some other cloud formation in my mind. Now salesrep productivity begins to erode because time is being spent “checking things out” instead of selling. This is the real opportunity to be addressed.

So what do we do about it? Here’s where the last piece of describing the solution comes in; critical data leverage. By describing what data objects will be used to connect the spaces across all the clouds that are relevant to me, I don’t have to worry about consistency anymore. Everyone can see what will be used to guarantee that every application I use to do my job has the right stuff. People will be able to do the right things and make the right decisions to ensure the desired outcome: one me. The values of the data objects may change over time as territories are divided up differently or salesreps move around the world, but the data object will stay the same and be consistent (until the next transformation anyway).

In the example, let’s say territory, sales team, customer classification and product family are used to determine what I can see and how I am compensated. So we add those data objects to the solution spaces to complete the picture.

The last solution space “How I know”, just became a bit easier to handle. By describing the solution spaces and critical data to be leveraged, everyone has a clear picture of what will be used to connect the clouds consistently and provide the ability to validate or reconcile One Cloud One Me.

Starting with the end in mind and describing the solution creates the guardrails for your transformation program. Do you think people will be able to accurately create the processes and designs that will enable your desired outcomes? Will decision making be easier and more rapid? Will your transformation program be set up for success?

© Ellen Terwilliger 2012

Why Transform: A picture is worth a thousand words

Here’s an example.

What does this represent to you?

• Why transform?

• Who will benefit?

For me this is an example of a manifest vision. The goal is to create a picture in your mind of why to transform and what success looks like. What do you see? For more on why you might want to have a manifest vision see the following:

In the example you are part of a very successful startup company. To get going you made extensive use of cloud computing or Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. It was great! But over time, your salesreps started to complain (salesreps never do that, do they?); they had to go too many places with different logins to get what they needed to know. It was taking way too long. And it didn’t seem consistent to them; what they had quoted didn’t match the win probability values on the opportunity, they could match their configurations and quotes but couldn’t find quotes they thought they had submitted as orders. And you noticed that your salesreps were spending way more time making sure their commissions were accurate instead of being out there selling. Does any of that seem familiar to you?

For this example, I might respond to the questions above like this:

Why transform?  To increase salesrep productivity and increase revenue; get the reps to spend more time selling!

Who will benefit?  Salesreps, sales operations, sales management, order management, shareholders

Success looks like a happy productive salesrep.

Obviously there’s more to it. People will have many perspectives, so depending on who you’re talking to you might get slightly different answers to the questions. But that’s OK; you want people to see what’s in it for them at the vision level.

Lots of people have commented on the importance of having a vision. Here are some observations I found interesting: 5 Reasons Why Vision Is Important

Vision has lots of applications; it isn’t limited just to the overall company reason for being. It is an effective tool in any cross functional transformation program where many people need to internalize a common purpose for change.

What do you think of the example? Will people will be able to see why to transform? Will they know what success looks like? I’ve seen a vision like the one in this example used on a program. It was understood by everyone; people were empowered and inherently knew what to do and why. No one was talking about how we couldn’t do something but about how we could and would get things done. It was a productive environment with rapid decision making done at the right level. And the results were spectacular, a global change on time and on budget which was rapidly adopted. Not bad for a little upfront investment!

Do you have a transformation program that could use a picture that is worth a thousand words, a manifest vision?

BTW: I do not endorse or oppose any of the companies whose logos do or do not appear in the example.  They are just the ones I thought of today.

 © Ellen Terwilliger 2012