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November 19, 2012
Changing IT Responsibilities For The “Clouds”
In the early days of business computers, premise-based mainframes, supported with only basic OS software and application development tools (Cobol, Fortran, Assembly Language), every using organization had to have large IT staffs or third-party help, to develop and maintain all their customized software applications. That task became somewhat easier in 1960, when Informatics, Inc, developed and sold the first successful software product, the Mark IV system, to IBM computer users for developing batch-mode, premise-based database retrieval and reporting applications.
Around 1964, Interactive “time-sharing” allowed remote individual users with “dumb” terminals (teletypes) to dial in to a mainframe computer and use it “interactively” in real time, rather than in batch mode. This was the beginning of online applications, but the advent of PCs killed the “”time-sharing” service concept and shifted the role of online applications to premise-based servers for remote users.
Now, with Internet data access, we are seeing hosted/managed “cloud”–based software applications for both information access and person-to-person communications rapidly displacing premise-based application server hardware systems, along with the need for internal IT staffs to develop and maintain such application software. The timing of this transition is opportune because of the rapid consumer adoption of multi-modal mobile smartphones and tablets, and the consequential need for integrating (UC-enabling) business process applications with flexible and personalized mobile interactions for BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) usage.
The question now is what role should IT groups play in making the transition from premise-based, desktop application software to “cloud”-based, multi-modal, mobile apps? It’s not a question of “if,” but of “how” and “when.”
Is The “Cloud” And Business Innovation A Threat Or An Opportunity For IT?
As innovative communication and application services replace both premise-based legacy hardware and software for business process activities, the diminishing control and responsibilities for IT staff appear to be threatening, according to Saugatuck Technology. At their recent 2nd annual Cloud Business Summit in New York City, the changes to IT’s role in any size organization was discussed with invited enterprise CIOs and CTOs.
While there may be a shift in who develops and maintains application software, as well as where that software will be physically located, there will still be a need for technology and infrastructure expertise to support and manage the selection and usage of all applications to insure proper and effective results. Whether that expertise resides internally or is provided through third-party management services, is a question that must be answered on an individual application and organizational basis.
Basic “cloud” services, whether private, public, or hybrid, offer a platform that is location- independent of the actual software applications and the data they use, and can be accessed and integrated from anywhere. Such applications can be for multi-modal person-to-person contacts, online business applications of all kinds, and, of course, process-to-person CEBP contacts for outbound alerts and notifications. That makes the “cloud” applications not only useful for virtualizing desktop usage, but more importantly, ideal for any individual mobile user with a smartphone or tablet. It really will be the specific business process and the individual end users who will be authorized to selectively use those applications that will be the challenge for managing an organization’s various “cloud”-based activities.
The suggested transitional changes in IT roles are laid out in Figure 1 of Saugatuck’s report. It is a starting point to consider in planning for IT organizational change to what Saugatuck calls the “Boundary-Free Enterprise”Ô. Those transitions involve moving computer applications from location-based hardware to “virtualized” software, and making all forms of contact with people more flexible and interoperable through UC-enablement.
A key insight from the Summit discussions for the future responsibilities of IT management was:
“Users first. The widespread scale and scope of easily-adopted, Cloud-enabled, individual productivity capabilities shifts power and influence more toward Business users, not Business organizations. Specific Business processes and functions are the initial means of Cloud incursion into the enterprise.”
Of course, mobile BYOD and its impact on communicating with people, is also part of the game change involved in “cloud” services. So, by definition, moving to a “cloud” environment will also mean UC–enablement and CEBP integrations for all business applications involved with any mobile end users, whether they be employees, business partners, or consumer customers. This will be particularly important for customer interactions because of widespread mobile “consumer BYOD.”
For some additional Cloud Business Summit perspectives on “cloud” applications and it’s impact on IT organizations, you can find more commentary from this Saugatuck web site.