IT Staffer Meets The Cloud, “But What Will I Do?”

Posted by Mike, July 26th, 2010
Filed under: Changing Face of IT
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An excellent article over at Computerworld.co.nz titled “The human aspect of cloud computing” makes an excellent argument for remembering those hit hardest by the inextricable move of all organisations to use “the cloud” for their computing needs:

When companies decide to unplug on-premise servers, ditch the applications housed on them and adopt vendor-hosted software in the cloud, the IT staffers in charge of supporting and maintaining those discarded in-house systems are bound to get nervous.

“Nervous”, I’d say for some it is out-and-out sheer blind panic.

Whilst the article outlines a lot of good general advice when dealing with your IT staff we would like to add one more item to your “IT staff change management” arsenal.

When thinking about the correct time to move your computing to the cloud, and generally most companies start off my shifting the commodity items first (email, calendar, document storage), your IT staff will be asking one question, “What about me?” And remember it won’t just be those directly affected by your initial move to the “cloud” but everyone in your IT department will be watching as they know the trend is to move more and more “out there” and even if we’re technically not ready to host everything the rate of innovation from the IT giants means we talk in months/next year and not “in 5 years time” – check out the video on our post IT Executives Looking For Help With The Cloud for a great discussion on the monumental change IT is currently experiencing and how to manage/deal with it.

There will be staff that have made a handsome living massaging the best out of your mail servers, backing up and restoring calendar entries and ensuring that LAN storage quota is evenly and equitably managed (by which I mean if an executive manager’s PA demands more space you give it to them). A lot of these staffers will have spent most of their working lives deep in the hearts of tin boxes, cut off from the rest of humanity in a special air conditioned room that only they know the secret combination to. They have spent a lot of your money and their time in gaining certifications in your specific “magic” email system. In essence they feel special – the worse sort are those that feel “above” the rest of the company – you know who they are in your workplace.

And then they are told, early on (of course! involvement early is key) that what they are paid to do is now going to be done by Google (say) because they can manage everything for the cost of one certification course, it is obvious that they will ask, “What about me, what will I do?”

Exactly, what about them … and the answer to that question is something only YOU, they and your company can answer. However, in our experience IT staff react to the question in one of 2 ways:

  1. “Oh thank the lord, I no longer have to spend my weekends patching that bloody mail server and can get on with real work! Please do it NOW!”
  2. “I have a family to feed, I don’t know anything else, I’ll never get a job! Right, what can I do to stop this crazy thinking?!?”

And, in our experience, the chances of any single person going ’1′ or ’2′ is roughly 50/50.

Of course we generalise and there are shades of grey where people that flip-flop from ’1′ to ’2′ over and over again. There even those that are so ’2′ that you’d think the company would have to move them to “special projects” before the inevitable restructure that finds them without a box on the org chat BUT they suddenly “see the light” and overnight become the biggest advocates of ’1′ that it can be quite frightening requiring very careful management.

We are different, we all react to change with our own peculiar nuances and we all need hand holding at some point which is why we find the the Computerworld article spot on in raising the issue.

IT leaders better be ready to have an honest and informed conversation with their staffers. The path to success begins with explaining to them clearly the rationale for the move.

IT staffers will need hand holding, don’t try and scrimp and save on the efforts needed and most definitely do not expect them to “suck it up”. Your first job is to gauge how each and every IT staff member has reacted to that all important internal question, “What about me?” and help them move from being a reaction of ’2′ to a reaction of ’1′. Also, as an IT manager you should be looking at any move to the “cloud” as an excellent opportunity to end the “them and us” attitude that many IT sections have with the rest of the business and move closer to being a valued service to the day-to-day operations – I love this quote (my emphasis):

… call for IT staffers to communicate more with business units to find out what they can do to help improve the productivity of their peers in departments like marketing, human resources and finance, Wettemann says. “Eat lunch with someone other than fellow IT folks,” she says.

Good luck, and don’t forget we’ve been through this a lot, call us when you need help.

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