The Impact of Cloud Computing on Staffing
How much can I reduce staff with cloud computing?
Cloud service providers often tout staff reduction as a key benefit of cloud computing, but that can be misleading. This brief examines the impact of cloud computing on IT staffing.
Cloud computing requires different skills than most IT staff members in established enterprises have. IT leaders are accountable for service quality to customers, yet cloud diminishes control over those services. Sure, cloud offers the potential to enhance business agility, enable innovation and reduce costs. But, you may find your staff is optimized for managing systems and components directly and may not be ready to manage services and service providers indirectly as required of cloud offerings.
You may discover that instead of reducing staff, you need to create new roles with new skills. To quantify staffing changes in the context of moving to cloud computing, you must first identify your staffing requirements. Develop stress tests that exercise your existing service management capabilities, including staff, processes, tools and values, as you evaluate cloud utility and warranty. Regardless of whether cloud computing enables you to reduce staff, you will most likely need to adjust your IT talent. Doing so may require significant staff changes — possibly even additions — and it may mean reassigning traditional IT work, such as infrastructure provisioning, to other teams.
What You Need to Know:
Cloud computing is disruptive to many customers, consumers and providers. (See IT Decision Brief “Your Cloud Success Requires New IT Roles” for more on cloud actors and roles.) Disruptive technology often signals standardization, cost benefits and improved reliability or performance. For these reasons, you cannot ignore cloud. Within the cost benefits are promises of reductions in staffing. Cloud computing changes staffing requirements but doesn’t always reduce the total number of staff. In many cases, you must simply change head count allocations to match shifting responsibilities.
Many IT organizations are not prepared to take full advantage of cloud computing. Research shows that existing resources (staff, technology, etc.) and capabilities (training, skills, etc.) are often inadequate to manage services and service providers effectively — a prerequisite for success with cloud computing. Managing an IT system isn’t the same as managing services. Don’t assume experience with application service providers means your team is ready for cloud service management.
A cloud computing "proof of concept" can help you make more informed decisions regarding staffing and skills. Successful cloud initiatives result from pilot initiatives that often require dedicated teams. In fact, a well-staffed and well-funded pilot results in better evaluation of cloud computing return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO).
What You Need to Do:
Cloud requires a very different approach to IT, especially in established enterprises. Analysis of successful cloud initiatives reveals that the largest obstacles of cloud computing success are organizational, not technical. Specifically, IT staff lacks the ability to understand and manage customer expectations. New teams—some often outside of traditional IT—need new skills and abilities. Development and operations must work as a team, which means staffing of most IT organizations has to change. Start your cloud initiative thinking about organizational knowledge, skills, and abilities—not technology:
- Analyze the different resources and capabilities you’ll need to get the most benefit from cloud computing. Don’t count too heavily on big staff reductions when moving to cloud services. In fact, assume that headcount will remain mostly flat. Do expect to shift headcount to other areas. Take into account the additional workload assigned to other teams. This extra workload may require additional headcount.
- Assume you’ll incur additional costs in your cloud migration: staff, tools, and training to transition from direct management to indirect management of IT systems and services. Remember to factor in the new skills required for managing suppliers, customer expectations, etc.
- Investigate the need for new and different capabilities from your service desk function and from your event, incident, problem, service-level, and supplier management processes. Measuring and managing Quality of Experience (QoE)—customer and/or business satisfaction with the solution—as well as Quality of Service (QoS)—the operation of the cloud systems—are critical.
- Assess IT organizational capabilities to be certain your staff has the maturity to work together to manage services vs. systems or components. Use tools to assess your maturity around servicelevel management (SLM), one of the keys to success with cloud. With cloud computing, SLM requires interaction across the company, and many IT organizations are not staffed or experienced to manage customer expectations.
- Start now by forming a cloud initiative. Learn now what it will take—including the implications to staff—to benefit from cloud delivery models before cloud computing is thrust upon you. Doing so will give you time to evaluate existing staff capabilities and determine capabilities required to manage cloud technology. Most likely, your staff will need additional knowledge and skills.