Survival guide: Do's and don'ts for next-gen IT

Business IT is evolving behind your back. Here's how to head off extinction and assert a larger role

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Techs also need to learn how to be proactive, not reactive, says Gray. If the marketing department has adopted a cloud service it really likes, then approach the VP of sales and suggest she might want to give it a try as well.

"The ultimate benchmark is when you get a call from the director of operations who says, 'We're thinking about implementing this strategy and we want your input on it,'" he says. "So instead of just trying to be better at delivering technology, you become the people the business goes to for ideas."

Do: Build a catalog of services
Don't: Forget about people, policies, and processes

Many companies moving to a cloud-based service model can get everything right from a technical point of view and still fail miserably because they forget about the human element, says Johnson.

"We've had a number of customers deploy private clouds from a technical perspective without considering the process and organizational change that goes along with it," he says. "The technical platforms were sound, but they failed anyway, because the IT organizations were not ready to provide consumerlike services, and the services they were offering were not the ones the business organizations were looking for."

When creating a catalog of services for business users, you need to write it in language they can understand, adds Jay Seaton, chief marketing officer for GlassHouse. You'll also need a way to accurately allocate the costs of the services procured, and to define who's authorized to procure which services and for how long.

"You don't want to be a situation where either no one can provision services or everyone is doing it and it gets out of control," he says. "And once something is provisioned, how do you decommission it? Does it expire after a certain amount of time, or does it go on forever?"

SWC's Lee says IT orgs should take care to avoid overwhelming users with too many options or offering tools no one actually wants.

"One big thing is to review your service catalog every year to make sure the core services you're offering are being used," he says. "Hopefully you've gathered enough metrics to know which services are being used and which ones are not. If not, is it still worth it to provide these services? At a certain point in time it stops making business sense."

Do: Become a data specialist
Don't: Be a server hugger

Resistance to change is a hallmark of many old-school IT professionals -- but not to anyone who's looking for a long and fruitful career, notes Gerry McCartney, CIO for Purdue University, which transformed its IT offerings into a services catalog more than half a decade ago.

"There are IT people we call 'server huggers' who've defined their job by the piece of equipment they maintain," he says. "That's a very risky posture to have from a professional standpoint. There's not going to be a lot of demand for IT people who only know IT. You have to be in the gap between the business and technology. The value the local IT person brings depends on how good they are putting themselves between the technology offerings and the needs of the organization."

As menial IT tasks melt away, technical people who want to bring value to the organization need to morph into data analysts, says McCartney.

"Your value will depend on your ability to extract useful business knowledge from the data your institution already produces or owns," he says. "That is the Internet of this decade."

Two exceptions to this rule are information security and contract law, McCartney adds. With the number of external and internal threats growing exponentially, security pros are needed more than ever. And if IT is going to act as a broker between business users and services available via the cloud, they need to be well versed in what those service agreements entail.

Willingness to embrace change is the key, says Appirio's Singh.

"If you signed up for a career in technology, you signed up for an industry where everything is turned upside down every few years, so to attach yourself to some past paradigm is the ultimate irony," he says. "More than anyone in any other field, technologists should be aware that change is coming and be willing to embrace that change."

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