Part 1 of this three-part series focused on planning out a successful move to a cloud environment. Part 2 investigates obstacles and strategies relating to customization in the cloud. Part 3 takes a look at training.
One of the selling points for moving software into the cloud is thatit is supposedly hassle-free: no hardware, no software and presumably no hugestaff of IT employees. The latter is certainly true — but that is notto say companies can stop investing in their IT human resources justbecause they have moved some or all of their applications to thecloud. On the contrary, one of the biggest hidden costs of cloudcomputing is the training costs that some companies have to undertaketo realign capabilities.
However, trying to pinpoint a number or ratio for cloud implementation — such as “for every $Xspent on software, $Y must be spent on training” — isnot easy. Much depends on the training an internal IT staff already has — andgiven the emphasis on Web-based architectures in recent years, thiscould be considerable.
What’s the Architecture?
Much also depends on the cloud architecture being leveraged, MichaelSutton, vice president of security research for Zscaler, told CRM Buyer.”Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as aService (SaaS) provide enterprises with differing levels of control andresponsibility when managing the cloud environment,” he said.
“In general, IaaS would require the most technical skills, while SaaShandles most of the heavy lifting, with PaaS somewhere in between,” he remarked.
Other generalizations can be made as well.
For instance, if the enterprise is responsible for the management oftheir own virtual servers (in an IaaS deployment), an IT staffer willrequire many of the same technical skills as they would when managinga local server, along with knowledge of managing and maintainingvirtual machines, he said.
“Also, all environments are likely to include proprietary APIs (application programming interfaces) andapplications that the IT staff will need to have or develop experiencewith in order to fully leverage the benefits of the cloud solution.”
Ultimately, Sutton said, “an ability to interface with and navigatethe cloud provider’s support system may be something that IT staffershave not previously been required to do. Such skills will be vital assome degree of control is sacrificed in exchange for the efficienciesof outsourcing maintenance of the overall platform.”
Quasi IT Employee
Some made-for-the-cloud applications, though, are so user-friendlythat companies can get away with keeping only a handful of hardcoretech staff on-hand. The attributes and skills of technology staffersare fundamentally changing with the advent of SaaS applications, DanNiemann, VP of sales and business development at Informatica, told CRMBuyer.
“Essentially, a new class of quasi ‘IT’ employee is emerging,” henoted. “A good example is the job role called a ‘Salesforce.comAdministrator,’ who knows CRM and sales process but may not have DBAskills. We have seen some companies fund these types of SaaSadministrators through the line of business, some through IT, and somethat ‘co-fund’ these positions.”
While these job roles don’t require core IT skills, they do requirecommunication with traditional IT employees because SaaS applicationsoften need integration with back-end systems, Niemann said. “Forexample, if you implement Salesforce, you may need to synchronize datawith a back-end billing system that is owned by IT. Even here,however, new on-demand integration services decrease the amount ofinvolvement required by IT staff, who are already over-burdened byother projects.”
That said, it is clear that while internal tech expertise remainsnecessary in the cloud, the environment also calls for a certain levelof business savvy from its IT staff.
IT admins for cloud applications need to be focused more on thebusiness goal of an IT project, Nadim Hossain, director of productmarketing and management with Salesforce.com, told CRM Buyer.
He points to Salesforce.com’s certification path courses asexamples. These focus on teaching participants what’s possible withSalesforce CRM, with admins schooled in such tasks as customizing theapplication and creating high-value reports and dashboards.
The first thing that people want to do with a cloud project is turnthe discussion from the technology to the business case, Jim Ramsey,director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told CRM Buyer. “Once the businesscase has been made for cloud computing, then you can start matchingskills sets.”
In general, Ramsey said, most companies want to stay away as much aspossible from customization, which suggests a need for expertise inSOAP and XML. “They want to take these business services that havebeen pre-defined and plug them together.”
Plan, Plan, Plan
As in most IT scenarios, upfront planning is absolutely essential,Mark Troester, director of product marketing at DataDirect, told CRMBuyer.
“Most companies already have a reference architecture forapplications. That should now be extended to represent how the cloudassets fit in the overall picture,” he said. The process maps out howapplications will fit or be integrated together — and what specificskill sets are necessary to have in-house to build or maintain theseintegrations. If done correctly and thoroughly, Troester said, anupdated reference architecture also serves as a primary training planfor companies.