What Are IT Staff Responsibilities for Cloud Apps?

By Art Rosenberg December 07, 2012

In the first days of premises-based mainframes, which were supported with only a basic operating system and programming development tools (Cobol, Fortran, Assembly Language), every customer organization had to hire and train large IT staffs or third-party help to design, develop, and maintain all their customized data processing software applications. That task became somewhat easier in 1960, when Informatics, Inc, developed and sold the first successful independent software product, the Mark IV system, directly to large IBM computer customers for easily creating batch-mode (punched cards, tape), premises-based, database retrieval and reporting applications.

Around 1964, interactive “time-sharing” allowed remote individual users with “dumb” terminals (teletypes) to dial in to a mainframe computer and use it “interactively” in real-time from “dumb” keyboard terminal/printers, rather than in batch mode. This was the beginning of online software applications, where the application programs were already on the mainframe computer and just needed to be accessed directly by remote individual users. However, the advent of PCs killed the “”time-sharing” service concept and shifted the role of online applications to individual, premises-based desktop computers, with wired connectivity to larger servers.

Now, with Internet data access, we are seeing hosted/managed “cloud”–based software applications for both information access and person-to-person communications, rapidly displacing premises-based application server hardware systems along with the need for IT staff to develop and maintain all related customized application software. The timing of this transition is opportune because of the rapid consumer adoption of multi-modal, mobile smartphones and tablets, and the consequential need for integrating (UC-enabling) business process applications with flexible and personalized mobile interactions for BYOD (bring your own device) mobile apps.

The question now is what role should IT organizations play in making the transition from premises-based, desktop application software to cloud-based, multi-modal, mobile apps? It’s not a question of if, but of how and when.

Is the cloud and business innovation a threat or an opportunity for IT staff?

As innovative communication and application services replace both premises-based legacy hardware and software for business process activities, the diminishing control and responsibilities for IT staff appear to be threatening, according to Saugatuck Technology. At its recent second annual Cloud Business Summit in New York City, the changes to IT’s role in any size organization was discussed with invited enterprise CIOs and CTOs.

While there may be a shift in who actually develops and maintains specific application software as well as where that software will be physically located, there will still be a need for technology and infrastructure expertise to support and manage the selection, accessibility, and usage of all applications to insure proper and effective results. Whether that expertise and responsibility resides internally or is provided through third-party management services is a question that must be answered on an individual application and organizational basis.

Basic cloud services, whether private, public, or hybrid, offer platforms that are location- independent of the actual software applications and the data they use, and can be accessed and integrated from anywhere and any device type. Such applications can be for multi-modal person-to-person contacts, online business applications of all kinds, and, of course, process-to-person CEBP contacts for outbound alerts and notifications. That makes the cloud applications not only useful for virtualizing desktop usage, but more importantly, ideal for any individual mobile user with a smartphone or tablet. It really will be around the specific business processes and the individual end-users who will be selectively authorized to use those applications that will be the challenge for managing an organization’s various cloud-based activities. Throw in the “Big Data” approach and multi-modal analytics to tracking and analyzing all interactions and contact activity, and you really have the new picture for operational management.

The suggested transitional changes in IT roles are laid out in figure one of Saugatuck’s report. It is a starting point to consider in planning for IT organizational changes to what Saugatuck calls the “Boundary-Free Enterprise.” Those transitions involve moving computer applications from location-based hardware to virtualized software, and making all forms of contact with people more flexible and interoperable through UC-enablement.

A key insight from the above-mentioned Summit discusses the future responsibilities of IT management :

Users first. The widespread scale and scope of easily-adopted, Cloud-enabled, individual productivity capabilities shifts power and influence more toward business users, not business organizations. Specific business processes and functions are the initial means of cloud incursion into the enterprise.”

Of course, mobile BYOD and its impact on communicating with people, is also part of the game change involved in cloud services. So, by definition, moving to a cloud environment will also mean multi-modal UC–enablement and CEBP integrations for providing flexible, contextual, contact (inbound or outbound) with people for all self-service (online) business applications used by mobile end-users, whether they are employees, business partners, or consumer customers. This will be particularly important for customer interactions because of the impact of mobile “consumer BYOD.”    

For some additional Cloud Business Summit perspectives on cloud applications and its impact on IT organizations, you can find more commentary from the Saugatuck website.

Edited by Jamie Epstein
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