by Alan Mumby

The CIO skillset for 2011: clouds on the horizon

Mar 17, 2011
CareersData CenterIT Leadership

The much publicised cloud is with us in CIO-land and starting to gain supporters and implementers, albeit the giant scale Government take-up has not yet kicked off.

For CIOs then, where cloud might become a viable business solution, what will they need to do to equip themselves?

Let’s first look at what it won’t do. Well it won’t enable you to sensibly move your legacy in-house applications. You need proximity and expertise of your own there so if you are a largely legacy shop, you may stand down for a while or at least rest easier.

If, on the other hand, you are a vanilla package consumer then the heat may be on. Its getting hotter as well if you are a largely domestic entity in a Western economy where data “residency” issues do not really affect you.

You are a good bet for investigating cloud, so if your business shape tends to this model, then what you will need to do to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge to make the right decisions?

Firstly, it is our view that commercially cloud looks a little like outsourcing. Someone else will look after your stuff, so all the issues such as performance, year-on-year improvement and responsibilities of each party to each other are all the same.

Nothing new there then for the skills portfolio.

Security check Cloud does potentially open up new security considerations though. Risks might be higher or lower than your current environment but that depends on what applications currently use what data and how people access and utilise them.

Since the record of Cloud service providers will be thin at best, most CIOs will need some reasonably deep architectural and telecommunications expertise to reflect on the risk profile.

It may well be worth investing in some risk assessment toolset as it is not just the domain security, but all dimensions from end-user through to service provider you will need to consider. This is a notorious area of weakness for many CIOs.

Looking further through the CIO’s battery of necessary skills, we can also see how cloud may require additional help or learning.

Selling vapours Cloud implications have to be carefully sold to stakeholders so all-round communication skills will be at a premium. Again, not something the average CIO is naturally known for.

Commercial deals for cloud may be newly devised and shaped, requiring the CIO to either wear the commercial cap or recruit some technology-savvy procurement talent. As with early outsourcing, both sides could make big errors here — largely due to unfounded assumptions or lack of breadth and scope.

The CIO must also be sure to put the most experienced team members on supplier engagement and monitoring. It’s a mistake to assume cloud services are a plug-and-play scenario. They need to be dealt with in the same careful, structured and tested way any other systems investment require. Discipline will be vital.

Reflection on the likely shape of the future enterprise will also be key to long-term success, the CIO must not close off any M&A or disposal activities with a short-term solution.

Classic skills The CIO’s inventory is probably not impacted unduly by cloud. We are not seeing specific cloud experience in high demand, but we are always seeing a high demand for the skills necessary to manage cloud. The skills and attributes for cloud are core parts of the CIO skill set but are not unique to cloud.

CIOs procure will require a similar set of fundamental approaches, mindsets, experiences and skills that other supply models demand. There are one or two wrinkles that cloud solutions bring but no more than offshoring or outsourcing, by way of example.

Alan Mumby is a partner and head of TMT and CIO/CTO practices for Odgers Berndtson

Pic: kevindooleycc2.0