Clouds And Careers
"Finding good talent is the same as it's always been--really hard," says Bentley Curran, one of the IT pros we cited earlier, who's CIO of Brady, a manufacturer of specialty labels, signs, and die-cut parts, many of them used in electronics such as cellphones. His outlook on staffing offers a lens into the impact cloud computing could have on IT careers.
Curran's IT team--with employees in the U.S., India, and the Philippines--now evaluates software this way: first, use software as a service; second, have it hosted in a third-party data center; and only if neither of those approaches work, bring the software inside Brady's data center. The company's SaaS lineup includes Google Apps for collaboration, Workday for human resources, Salesforce.com for customer relationship management, and soon Omniture for website data and Ariba for procurement.
The cloud kills old jobs but creates new ones. For example, where before Brady had Domino developers keeping its Lotus email servers running, now those staffers are working with the company's R&D group to ensure that employees in its Asian and U.S. design centers are getting the collaboration features they need from Google Apps.
Curran sums up what he wants from his IT pros in three principles: entrepreneurial IT, so they're coming up with new ideas; connected IT, so they're plugged into business units and anticipating needs; and IT as a trusted adviser, so business units see the value of calling IT into discussions early.
Brady still needs technical skill. For example, its IT team built and runs a content management system for its products that can be customized, so buyers can enter the requirements online. Salespeople can use the content management tool to add new products themselves, without IT's involvement.
In contrast, data center management jobs are further down the pay scale, as companies need fewer people to run IT infrastructure because of increased automation and cloud computing.
Brady has about half the physical servers in its data center it had just three years ago. There are still job functions that haven't gone to the cloud--Active Directory's still on premises, because there's no viable cloud authentication, and ERP looks like it'll stay there for the long haul. "There's going to be some point where the only thing left in the data center is ERP," Curran says. "At that point, I can probably at least look at hosting."
ERP, in fact, is one function that has never strayed from the top of our IT salary scale over the pace decade. This year, it's again among the top five staff and management functions. At $102,000 median pay, it's one of three IT staff functions that earn six-figure compensation. In the same league is the enterprise app integration function, at $105,000 median staff compensation.