Global CIO: How The Cloud Changes What IT Pros Do

As Brady Corp. has moved to cloud computing, its CIO sees a shift in the skills its IT organization needs.
Now those staffers are doing things like working with the company's R&D to ensure that employees in its Asian and U.S. design centers can do the kind of collaboration they need to, using Google apps. For example, IT employees have helped colleagues use Google Sites to set up their own project pages, so they can post content rather than emailing it around.

Cloud software can bring its compromises--fewer features, less ability to customize. Google Apps doesn't have all the features and functions of Microsoft Exchange, Curran says, and IT leaders need to make that fact clear to their colleagues.

But people are using more features than they were in Lotus because Apps is easy to use, Curran says. And, it's has lowered costs, let IT focus more on strategy than implementation, and met Brady's global collaboration needs. The only real hiccup has been for its employees in China using Google Apps. "One day it'll be working, the next day a certain group of people will just be denied access to certain functionality, and you can't predict it," Curran says.

When Curran is hiring for these cloud-centric roles, he often can't hire people with direct experience working on the platform, such as Google developers. "Being too far out in front is a challenge," he says. But instead of looking for people with Google Apps experience, he looks for people excited by the idea of working in this mode--focusing on using IT to solve business problems rather than running systems.

Even as Brady keeps moving toward cloud apps, Curran doubts many companies will want to run ERP software as a service, since effective ERP requires too much customization. Though there might be a point, some years away, that it could become a hosted service.

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.

The move to the cloud has changed how Brady's broader business looks at IT, he thinks. And that has changed what Curran looks for in the IT professionals he hires and grooms. Expect other cloud adopters to follow a similar path.