How Public Cloud is Changing the Role of the IT Professional

By Scott Cameron, Principal Solution Architect

Those of us who are successful in information technology professions learn early in our careers to reinvent ourselves every few years by updating our skill sets. It’s either that or we rapidly go the way of the dinosaurs. In fact, reinventing yourself becomes a skill in and of itself; however, it’s no easy task. It requires that you evaluate where you are in your career, take stock of your experience and natural abilities, and assess whether your skills are close enough to the leading edge to keep you in demand or if you need to retool. The biggest driver of career evolution in recent memory is, of course, the cloud. 

Cloud-based email was just the beginning

Late in 2012 I wrote Companies, IT Departments and Workers Need to Get in to the Cloud. The article was about the changing nature of IT — the coming of “cloud.” At the time, I predicted that Office 365 would be a significant disruption for Exchange email on-premises and that companies would need to leverage consulting services to keep up with their competitors. 

I was right: Office 365 has changed how over 120 million commercial users communicate and collaborate. Despite Google’s best efforts, G Suite has only converted 15 companies on the S&P 500. The rest use Exchange or Office 365, with more going to Office 365 all the time. I predicted Google would struggle in the corporate space, and indeed that has proven true. Once Office 365 hit critical mass in 2015 or so, everyone started jumping on the bandwagon. Now there are very few companies that aren’t leveraging some sort of public cloud email services (mostly Office 365). Those that haven’t begun their journeys are now in the position of playing catch up to their peers.

Cloud-based email has become a foundational technology. It’s not about whether you’ll leverage the cloud for email; it’s about when, which cloud, and how much. 

Cloud data center solutions: fail fast, succeed soon

That type of tectonic shift is happening again, but this time with the kind of public cloud-based data center and platform services that Microsoft Azure provides. As with Office 365, companies that aren’t taking steps now to understand how to leverage public clouds like Azure in the years ahead are going to rapidly fall behind their competitors. But the impact to our industry is bigger this time. 

Why? Because Azure is all about going fast.

Public cloud services like Azure allow companies to “fail fast and succeed soon.” What does that mean? It’s now incredibly easy to try something new, with little or no investment in physical technology infrastructure. Innovation accelerates when companies can develop something new, evaluate its success, and tear it back down without ever spending capital, going through procurement, or even in some cases, without contacting the IT department.

A compelling business case for cloud 

Public cloud services also allow companies to scale easily without being slowed down by purchasing and installing additional capacity. For example, consider the technology needs at a company like H&R Block. Tax preparation season happens the first quarter of every year. There’s a huge influx of temporary employees, a burst of demand on their website and backend systems, and then after April 15, poof! The surge is over.

Think about all the IT systems (desktops, laptops, servers, network equipment, etc.) they need to purchase, prepare, update, upgrade and replace, retire, and recycle just to be ready for tax season each year! And, what do you do with all that extra equipment between tax seasons? I bet much of that equipment sits idle, effectively wasted. The company would be paying full price for infrastructure they only use for 3–4 months of the year.

Now imagine if they could buy just what they need for only as long as they needed it. How much could they save? Not just in hardware, but in wasted effort?

In the cloud, when you turn something off (for the most part), you stop paying for it. Further, imagine being able to set up entire new systems in minutes or hours rather than weeks or months and then being able tear it all down just as easily at the end without needing to dispose of old equipment. How’s that for two “green” benefits in one?

That is the power of cloud. Take one final leap with me…imagine that your competitors are leveraging this technology to design, build, test, and deploy new applications and services in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost that it takes you.

Every day that they have this capability and you do not, they are accelerating away from you with new, innovative solutions you cannot possibly develop or deliver. Every. Minute. Counts.

Aligning your career with public cloud 

To reiterate the importance of those of us in IT needing to continually reinvent ourselves…there is no doubt in my mind that public cloud services are not just in demand, they are now a foundational technology. And like Office 365, it’s not about whether you’ll leverage the cloud for data center services: It’s about when, which cloud, and how much.

So, in the same way that companies that don’t leverage cloud are falling behind, IT professionals who are not retooling for cloud should prepare to fall behind as well. Unfortunately, they will become dinosaurs along with those who still focus on Exchange and AS400s.

As a closing thought: You might consider working at an employer that “gets” cloud — that’s why I chose to come to Insight. Our focus on continuing to invest in and build our cloud capability, combined with our strategic partnership with Microsoft and our ability to deliver everything from digital innovation in the cloud to data center migrations to collaboration solutions to facilitating hardware and software logistics, makes this a unique place to learn and grow.

For forward-thinking organizations and the IT pros that help them achieve their business objectives, it’s time to get cloudy!

By Line

Scott Cameron evangelizes cloud and productivity topics regularly through blogging and speaking. Scott is a Principal Azure Solution Architect and product manager for Azure infrastructure consulting services at Insight.