CIO as Cloud Career Guru
By WSJ. Custom Studios for VMware Inc.
Cloud applications can be considered disruptive technology—and with disruption comes profound change. The cloud is causing IT departments to alter existing policies and procedures, add new monitoring and management tools, and change how they make IT decisions, according to the 4th Annual Trends in Cloud Computing study from CompTIA. In fact, some 37% of IT departments have restructured because of the cloud.
But while many IT professionals have taken to embracing the cloud, there are also quite a number who consider the cloud a threat to their organization and their career. Others in the profession may take a “head in the sand” approach, dealing with uncertainty by pretending it doesn’t exist. Still others may disengage from their work, leading to lower productivity.
None of these latter options are acceptable to a healthy IT organization—but all of them can be mitigated to a large degree with some preparation and commitment to the cloud on the part of the CIO. To minimize uncertainty and maximize productivity, CIOs need to play the role of “Cloud Guru,” clearly articulating a compelling vision for the use of cloud technology at their companies, while emphasizing the enormous opportunities available to IT professionals in this new landscape.
It starts with transparency. CIOs need to be forthright that change is coming. Howard Dresner, a technology consultant, suggests CIOs educate their staffs that cloud computing is less about reducing costs and more about increasing flexibility and boosting results. For example, he points out that cloud analytics can allow a salesperson to access real-time data on his mobile phone before a client visit, revealing if the client has had problems with, say, deliveries. Dresner notes that before the cloud, pulling together this type of information on the spot was difficult. Because of the cloud, salespeople are positioned to understand client needs more thoroughly, solve problems faster, and deepen relationships—and thus increase sales. He adds that as more companies embrace cloud computing in search of such payoffs, CIOs need to become visible and vocal advocates of the cloud as paired with virtualization—two intertwined areas that help reduce costs and raise productivity.
As part of this advocacy, CIOs should be trumpeting the vast prospects for career growth and development attendant to these areas. Contrary to a common fear among established IT professionals, the cloud will not eliminate IT jobs—it will create them. Cloud-related jobs grew 194% faster from 2010 to 2011, according to a study by Dice, a technology recruiting web site. Dice found the average salary for cloud IT positions was $88,995, while the average for virtualization jobs was $81,611. These were the two highest pay rates among the 10 types of technology jobs in the survey—so CIOs should stress to IT professionals that those who pursue a career in the cloud are entering one of the more lucrative career paths in IT.
On the other hand, the opposite is also true; a path of negativity could be perilous. According to CompTIA, many IT professionals are putting themselves—and their careers—at risk by downplaying the cloud trend as “nothing new.” As a result, they may not develop the requisite skills needed in the cloud era.
Incidentally, two-thirds of the companies in the CompTIA survey that reported cloud-related restructuring said their IT staff members had trained to expand their skillset, improving their ability to navigate the IT economy. CIOs who want to be cloud career gurus should make sure such training and development opportunities are available to employees.
It’s also important to stress that cloud jobs will require not just new technical skills, but capabilities that might fall outside of what has been considered “traditional IT.” At the top of the list are communication and negotiation skills: With public, private and hybrid models, cloud management is often a collaboration between internal staff and external partners. Cloud professionals will need the skills to manage these relationships. CompTIA found that the cloud has caused 58% of companies to add “department liaisons,” 47% to hire “integration specialists,” and 32% to bring in new “compliance specialists.”
In order to fill these roles, CIOs need to understand these roles and effectively communicate about them. A host of new cloud-focused jobs will appear by 2017, with titles such as “Data Ecologist,” “Virtual Environment Manager” and “Gamification Consultant.” Rather than being seen as a threat, if CIOs as cloud career gurus are good communicators, these opportunities will come to be seen as good news to IT professionals—and get them thinking about where they want to take their careers as they add cloud management to their expertise.
The Wall Street Journal news department was not involved in the creation of this content.
 4th Annual Trends in Cloud Computing study: http://www.slideshare.net/comptia/slideshare-2013-cloud-end-user-study
 http://marketing.dice.com/techtalentdemand/spring 2011
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