Ask Alex Part 4: Building Consultants

Alex Jauch is a Group Product Manager for VMware Cloud on AWS. In this six-part series, he answers your burning questions about enterprise public cloud.

In part four, he’ll answer the question: “What new skills should my IT organization focus on to prepare for cloud?”

As we discussed in our previous post, the primary difference between cloud and traditional IT is a fundamental shift in business model.

Yes, it is true that new technical skills are required. However, what you will find is that introducing a new technical skill or a new tool into your IT organization is relatively simple to do. Learning new technologies is something you get good at if you want to be in this business.

However, what is not simple is changing soft skills, processes and ways of doing business. Introducing this type of change into an organization is very difficult.

Because of this, I firmly believe that the introduction of consultative skills into your organization may be the single most important change you can make to prepare your organization for the cloud era.

If you look back on the history of enterprise IT, there has been a steady shift away from low-level technical tasks towards higher level tasks. In the early era of IT, it was not uncommon for organizations to build custom operating systems or database systems for their mainframes. Commercial software was simply not flexible enough to represent all the complex business logic organizations had.

Later, standardized commercial operating systems such as Unix made this unnecessary. Moving forward, commercial databases came along and nobody wasted time making their own database. Similarly, SaaS is moving many traditional workloads like email out of the enterprise data center. This trend is continuing and may ultimately culminate in very few organizations running their own data centers over time. While the jury is still out on the ultimate fate of public cloud within an enterprise, there is no doubt that the trend of moving IT up the stack will continue.

If you combine this trend with the fundamental democratization of IT that cloud brings, it’s clear that traditional command and control based IT organizations will struggle in the cloud era. Because cloud assumes a business model where end users can have whatever they want as long as they’re willing to pay for it, there is no way to use traditional IT governance structures such as Architectural Review Boards or approval chain restrictions. In the cloud era, whoever holds the budget wins. While IT could respond by trying to remove budget from operational departments, this strategy seems shortsighted.

A more forward-looking strategy would be to partner with operational business units and support their business goals by providing guidance, advice and tooling that helps them maximize their IT spend. By definition, this is a consultative activity rather than a pure engineering activity.

The drive for enterprises to increase IT velocity will inevitably result in fewer IT controls and a highly dispersed IT budget. By pushing IT budget down into operational groups, decisions can be made faster and business goals can be met quicker. The push for higher velocity is a direct response to the level to which enterprises are being disrupted by software companies. With many sectors of the US economy being disrupted by software companies, the drive for ever-higher velocity seems inevitable.

To summarize, enterprise IT is facing a “perfect storm” of external forces that will cause massive disruption in the way IT works:

  • – Movement “up the stack” due to SaaS and other cloud technologies.
  • – Business shifting to faster velocity strategies results in budget shifts to operational units.
  • – Democratization allowing smaller business units to be completely self sufficient.
  • – Technical maturity making core technologies easier to use.

These factors together mean that IT organizations that focus on customer intimacy by developing consultative skills and adopting customer friendly policies will be more successful in the cloud era, than those IT organizations who focus on engineering execution and command and control IT governance policies.

Thus, it is the consulting and customer success skill sets that are most likely to improve your IT organization in the cloud era.

About the Authors

Alex Jauch

Group Product Manager at VMware

Alex is a long time enterprise software guy with a focus on Cloud.  Today, Alex is a Group Product Manager in the VMware on AWS team at VMware.  Previously, he worked within the vSphere business unit on Software Defined Storage.  Prior to VMware, Alex worked at NetApp where he was the lead architect for the NetApp Private Cloud solution team.  He is the author of “Why We Fail” which is about Enterprise Private Cloud adoption.  Alex has worked for several Fortune 500 companies in a variety of Program Management, Consulting and Architectural roles including a twelve-year stint at Microsoft.

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