Your IT staff should be as flexible as your technology

By Eric Berridge

As companies shift resources to SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, etc., they need to adjust their staffing philosophy to an agile one that embodies a core reason many turn to the cloud in the first place: flexibility.

First, the staffing model needs to be flexible. Consider that such technologies can be quickly implemented, turned on and off, or scaled according to the increasingly erratic demands of today's business environment. Furthermore, cloud technologies are continually evolving, being updated with new features and functionality and, therefore, require ongoing development. Simultaneously, such development needs are tied to real-time business challenges that may vary greatly in scope.

Therefore, to remain agile, you need ready access to a full range of experts to build complicated reports, craft and integrate complex workflows, write custom code, and tailor the user interface to business processes. While such skillsets are often beyond those of the typical system administrator, even companies that do have these in-house may find that the wide-ranging and unpredictable requirements of today's business cycle strain their full-time staff. For many organizations, getting the most from such technologies means supplementing full-time staff with a pool of contractors with specific skillsets that can be called upon on an as-needed basis.

Second, the framework within which IT operates needs to be flexible. The integration of IT with business places the onus for innovation squarely on CIOs and their staff. However, according to the Gartner report "Agile Project Leadership: What it is; How it Develops" by Robert Handler and Donna Fitzgerald, the trend toward risk aversion within organizations creates a "mindset [that] effectively eliminates creativity and innovation." In effect, managers eliminate risk to their own jobs by implementing overly rigid procedural structures that keep their staff on the road most travelled. Innovation, however, entails a degree of risk, and ongoing innovation requires that you run your IT department -- and your company for that matter -- in a way that gives staff the breathing room to try new things and....gasp...occasionally make mistakes.

Third, IT staff members need to be flexible. The speed with which cloud-based implementations are completed -- and often dropped -- means that IT staff need a mindset that allows them to turn on a dime, moving quickly from one project to the next.

Moreover, while IT has traditionally been holed up in the basement, the cloud, social media, mobile and other technologies are breaking down departmental silos. This means that IT staff will increasingly interact with individuals from all company departments, and feedback from these interactions will guide the CIO's recommendations to the company (which will grow in importance as employees rely more and more on technology). IT staff, therefore, need to be able to flex their communication to the needs of people within the company, many of whom are decidedly non-technical. It also means that IT staffers will need to adapt their thinking to the non-technical user's point of view in order to offer solutions that make their job easier.

Eric Berridge is co-founder and principal of agile business consulting firm Bluewolf, which provides lifecycle innovation, cloud implementations, IT staffing, managed services and other services to sync business and IT for efficient, adaptive performance.

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