Cloud computing will turn IT workforce into on-tap resource

Advances in the cloud and IT consumerization may mean more flexible, less expensive workforce -- at cost of IT job security

Cloud computing has given organizations worldwide on-tap access to compute power, storage, and applications, resulting in a huge boost in flexibility coupled with cost savings. A new study foretells that the IT workforce soon may become the next on-tap resource thanks to the cloud, which could mean even greater agility and lower costs for companies -- but it could also hurt job security and breed resentment among tech pros.

Commissioned by Dell and Intel, "The Evolving Workforce Report" (part one of a series) aims to identify and explore future trends and themes pertaining to the workplace and workforce, honing in on the role technology plays. As part of that trend -- what the report refers to as "crowdsource services" -- full-time IT departments will be supplemented or replaced by far-flung contract freelancers or teams that are thrown piecemeal projects on-the-fly in JIT (just in time) fashion.

What's more, the traditional nine-to-five schedule with employees working in at computers on their desks, in primarily siloed fashion, will continue to fade away. Instead, workers will have more flexible schedules and able to do their tasks via any number of computing devices at all hours of the day. Employee performance will gauged by output instead of hours logged.

There are potential benefits to this evolution, the report notes, such as the aforementioned boost in flexibility, coupled with a reduction in costs. In theory, organizations will be able to assign projects on an as-needed basis to the ideal worker. For example, a company with branches spread worldwide could rapidly pinpoint and contract the perfect candidates to address a support desk problem for a remote office in Denver, a security breach in London, or a data center outage in Dubai, without having to keep expensive full-timers on call in those locations. Further, the model enables organizations to rapidly add, say, developers to a meaty project that's falling behind schedule.

Additionally, the evolution means more people -- through crowdsourcing -- can more easily contribute their expertise, potentially on a 24/7 basis as organization recruit workers overseas. "Due to the rise of pervasive ICT and the development of cloud computing, it will be easier to distribute more tasks and services and to invite input from a community through crowdsourcing," the report notes.

The report rightly points out potential drawbacks to this malleable JIT model of the IT workforce. From a technical standpoint, companies will need to figure out how to accommodate the different platforms their employees and contractors might use. There's also the challenge of assigning, tracking, and managing the work from legions of disparate workers.

Further, the report points to potential security concerns as organizations expose computing resources, data, and projects to more outsiders. Also, IT managers might be pressured to embrace new technologies are a faster pace than they're accustomed to, creating compatibility and security headaches.

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