Is Your IT Staff Cloud-Ready?

CIOs have to communicate early and often what their employees' roles will be after IT services move to the cloud. Here's how the CIO for the city of Asheville is reaching out to his staff.

When it comes to conversations about cloud computing, CIOs often talk about the gained productivity and cost savings. That’s expected.

But Jonathan Feldman, CIO for the city of Asheville in North Carolina, highlights another aspect of the cloud that comes up less often but is a big concern among IT staffs: What roles will IT staffs have after services move to the cloud? For IT infrastructure workers, that’s a major concern, said Feldman, a former infrastructure guy.

“The fact of the matter is these are people who are scared,” he said during the recent AWS Government, Education and Nonprofits Symposium in Washington, D.C. “They’re scared for their livelihood, and I think the humane thing to do is to talk to them and help them understand what their role is if it’s not racking and stacking and installing operating systems.”

Most IT staffs at the local and state levels are swamped and always have a backlog of at least one month’s work, Feldman explained. He suggested that leaders address workforce concerns early and often.

It's really important to have that social contract in place,” Feldman added. It’s more stressful to have uncertainty than to be told about a bad outcome, if there is one. If there is a good outcome, leaders have to communicate that to staff often and in various channels, such as staff meetings, hallway conversations and visual displays.

Moving forward with the cloud, agencies will need to either train IT staff who will be supporting new technologies or consider hiring employees who possess needed skill sets.

“As states continue to consolidate IT resources and institute enterprisewide programs, it is imperative to continually assess the current landscape and seek IT skill sets that may be needed in the future,” according to a 2011 survey of state CIOs titled State IT Workforce: Under Pressure.

Selectively Outsourcing IT Capabilities

Feldman compared adopting cloud services to outsourcing for IT skills that may be too costly to have in-house. For example, most local governments can’t afford to have a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert on staff.

“They make probably double what I make,” he said. “I can’t employ them. So, I selectively outsource that expertise for our Cisco VoIP phone system.”

The same thing is happening in the cloud, but it’s a matter of having that conversation with employees.

“This is no different, but I think in any leadership role, you’ve got to tell them what you’ve told them, and then you’ve got to tell them again,” Feldman said.

Learn more about cloud services and solutions here.

Robert Churchill/Thinkstock
Jun 27 2014