Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt over ICT jobs

Arcus Global

Arcus Global
July 18, 2012

There has been a recent survey highlighting the barriers to adoption of Cloud computing done by the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF). The survey was reported on publictechnology.net (can be found here) http://www.publictechnology.net/sector/central-gov/public-sector-cloud-booming-where-are-standards?goback=%2Egmp_2981638%2Egde_2981638_member_133502379

The survey comes up with all of the expected findings about growth, trajectories etc… One particular section is interesting (quote from the page linked above) – shows the areas of concern amongst users slowing down adoption:
“There was little surprise to be found in the areas that still concern end users. In descending order these were data sovereignty 85%, security 66%, privacy 66%, internet access 40%, fear of loss of control 30%. And contractual lock-in 30%. Burton sees these fears still being fuelled by FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt), which is compounded by a lack of transparency.”
However, anyone who has really worked with Cloud in the public or private sector, knows that some of the main underlying reasons for its adoption are the same as with any innovation or new technology – they are people related. Broadly, we can separate them into two categories:
1) Ignorance – or lack of awareness of options and the new possibilities the cloud offers – not answers to specific questions about data, or security, but much higher level, conceptual ones. Like – why should cloud be the default option? Most people are familiar with the terms, but will struggle to explain how to utilise PaaS, or why hosted software charged at per user per month is still not SaaS.
2) Fear – not about the solution, but about the changing model and change in general. Primarily – personal job security.
This post is about the second one: the typical fear of an IT pro for their jobs.
Cloud is inherently, by definition, easier to manage that any “on prem” or hosted solution. Whether you are talking about SaaS, IaaS or PaaS, simply the amount of “work” and tasks to be performed by IT is less. Reasons for these can be found anywhere, but one of the best places are the vendors calculators: see Google and Amazon as an example : http://calculator.s3.amazonaws.com/calc5.html
The main factors of difference are labour and management, as well as the solution itself. Clearly that does not bode well for the server admin ? It’s not a problem in the short term – but if we trace the trajectory forward we can see entire teams disappearing. Server admins, network admins – even helpdesk staff – SaaS applications require a lot less management, and certainly no client patching, no client installs etc…

Networks become simpler (75% of users will simply need an internet / PSN connection), desktop management becomes easier – no need for complex virtual environments – most apps live in the Cloud etc…
Many CIOs measure their success/power by the amount of budget they control – which is almost the same as measuring by the mount of reports they have. Cost reduction affects the budget, and Cloud reduces jobs in ICT – this much is clear.
There is certainly a lot to fear.
However, there is an alternative, much more positive view. Today in most councils I have worked with, most of the combined effort of the IT effort goes on keeping the lights on, rather than looking forward or working with the business to help them see how IT could make the business better. This is because the combined “weight” of all ICT systems in a modern organisation is so high, that simply keeping the estate running, with all the patches, upgrades, conflicts (on servers and desktops), networks, mobile devices virtualisation etc etc etc… are so high, there is simply no money / time to do anything else.
Most ICT professionals in the councils I know, did not “sign up” to manage the servers or networks – for that you go an work for a really techie company (there are plenty of jobs there if you are good). They have signed up to help other to use IT, and act as an expert. Unfortunately, in the current set up, too few get to do this (see above).
The role of IT in the public sector is trivialised, and sidelined – it is seen as a back office function – for this reason – that most IT teams focus on just maintaining, descend into “jargon” when spoken to, and are seen as blockers. As a result, the current attitude of having IT teams on the “chopping block” is understandable.
Of course, nothing should be further from the truth – IT holds the power to dramatically improve the way business both in terms of cost and quality, as well as speed. IT amounts to between 3% – 10% of the total cost of a council, but has the potential to reduce the other 95% by a third or more – so why would you cut IT teams (maximum savings of 1-2% of your org’s costs) and prevent yourself from creating 20 – 30% efficiency in the rest of the organisation? Best private enterprises understand this, and spend MORE on IT, not less.
However, simply spending more on the same, will not do – changes is skills need to happen: OUT go technical management skills, and IN come the vendor management, enterprise architecture and business analysis skills. To some extent, S/W development needs to come back to understand how things work and to augment app. functionality.
Most current teams are the exact opposite of this right now. Almost no one has an good Enterprise architecture (EA) team, but the helpdesk and desktop support teams are massive(in relation to users). No on regularly visits the business to talk to them about how IT could improve their work – what about long term technology trends? What about long term plans for agenda changes / legislation? What about the many ways in which IT innovation is driving the private sector forward? Who looks across all applications to see if certain functions should be integrated and others disaggregated or separated? How can a council take full advantage of Service Oriented Architectures? What simple change in the business process would same many IT headaches / costs? Too few of these conversations take place regularly.
Cloud gives us the perfect opportunity to focus on what is important, and to re / up skill the IT team. Pay them more, help them change, allow them to feel secure, and this will help facilitate cloud and innovation adoption more that any amount of industry briefings or training…