Difficult transitions are as American as apple pie. What shifts from an agrarian to an industrial society and then from an economy based on manufacturing to one powered by information have in common is that organizations that were able to anticipate change and adapt their business models prospered.
Now, public cloud computing may not compare with the invention of the steam engine. But it's highly disruptive, and this time, the pace of change will be measured in years, not decades.
How you feel about that may depend on your vantage point: According to our InformationWeek Analytics2010 Cloud Computing And IT Staffing Survey, if you're in a position to determine or strongly influence your company's cloud computing strategy, you're juggling weighty considerations around the costs and risks of moving various business functions to outside service providers. If your management role is operational, you're likely more concerned about your staff and wondering what you can do to make your department essential to the business, even as it adopts cloud services.
For their part, strategic IT managers are thinking about cloud services a lot. Three-fifths of these pros responding to our survey say their companies have either adopted cloud services or plan to within the next 24 months. By contrast, only about one-third of IT staff say this is the case. That doesn't mean we just happened to survey IT staff and middle managers in companies that are less likely than average to be moving functions to the public cloud. Rather, cloud providers really are targeting line-of-business executives, who in turn are insisting that their CIOs evaluate these services and adopt where they make business sense. The word may not have trickled down just yet, but all operational managers and staff should be thinking about the cloud's long-term impact on their roles.
One thing we learned from early adopters is that--for now, anyway--cost savings likely won't come from reduced staffing. "I struggle with the idea of making a really good business case for cloud computing that shows hard-dollar ROI," says one public-sector IT director. "Most of the cloud computing ROI for me has been in soft cost savings, with things like productivity improvements, system administration, automated provisioning."