As companies move more of their software to the cloud, there are some indispensible skills IT pros need to hone or acquire, and they’re not technical skills.
They'll need to be better business problem solvers, like Salesforce.com specialists who sit with marketing teams and cook up new ways to use that software to help them. They'll need to be big picture thinkers, like someone who anticipates how executives might make better use of an iPhone, rather than someone who just knows how to get corporate email onto the device. And they'll need to be first-rate program managers, people who can drive projects to the finish, not just take orders and knock out the technical piece of it.
That's the view of one CIO, Brady Corp.'s Bentley Curran, an innovative IT leader who has embraced the cloud more aggressively than most.
I've spoken regularly with Curran for years, and have listened as he patiently, steadily moved Brady more toward software as a service of late, gauging when the company was ready for the next step. A quiet, unassuming guy, Curran's not going to jump on a conference table and try to convert you to the cloud. But I asked, so he shared his cloud computing strategy, and how he thinks software as a service is changing his IT organization and its relationship with the rest of the business.
Brady's a growing manufacturer of products such as specialty labels and precision die-cut materials, with customers including mobile device makers and annual sales above $1 billion. Curran dipped Brady's toe in SaaS about three years ago, with Salesforce.com CRM. The company has since added Workday HR apps, Google Apps for collaboration, and Concur for expenses, and Curran expects to add Ariba for procurement and Omniture for Web analytics soon.
For one example of how the cloud changes what IT pros do, consider Brady's Salesforce.com specialists. Curran has two people in the U.S., one in Asia, and one in Europe whose role is to help business units leverage the Salesforce apps and other IT to solve problems. "They live and breathe in the business all day long," Curran says.
Google Apps provides another example. In the past, Brady had Domino developers keeping its Lotus email servers running. Switching to Google Apps let it eliminate more than 40 servers.