Yes, the cloud will kill jobs—maybe even yours

Your cloud migration strategy should include preparation for the cloud eliminating your IT job

One of the first questions that I get from a new client moving to the cloud is what organizational changes it will likely go through. Although clients want to adopt cloud computing as disruptive technology, they don’t want to disrupt their roles in the organization.

But you can’t really disrupt your technology without disrupting your work—and some of the people who do that work.

That disruption can take two forms: job change and job loss. People fear both, and they rightfully fear job loss. As a study by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, 85 percent of the 5.6 million jobs lost in the United States from 2000 to 2010 were attributable to technological change, largely automation.

Although IT is not manufacturing, it shares a number of characteristics that mean cloud adoption will automate some IT jobs out of existence. Automation works economically because it takes people out of the routine tasks, reducing both labor costs and the variability in the results, which reduces overhead, errors, and downtime. As your datacenter shrinks, the staff that builds, maintains, and troubleshoots your datacenter network, servers, and applications aren’t needed. You also need fewer people to manage workloads, security, and vendor contracts. 

The job loss from automation is widespread and will get moreso across many industries as robots, software, cloud services, and other forms of automation do the work that people do. For example, self-driving vehicles and drones will decimate taxi, delivery, and trucker jobs. Likewise, machine learning and AI systems will decimate jobs like insurance adjusters, financial planners, accountants, diagnosticians (from medical to networking), and all those other white-collar information-processing jobs.

Some people will be needed to handle exceptions, monitor systems, orchestrate the robots, and create software, policies, plans, and other intellectual work product—but only a percentage of today’s workforce. What started in manufacturing will spread.

In fact, those cloud efforts your company is embarking on will be part of a larger effort to automate away costs—and people. You’ll be one of the people making that job loss in other departments possible. And the job losses outside IT are likely to be far greater than those within IT. Of course, the fact of that broader trend is no consolation to those in IT whose jobs disappear into the cloud.

We all know some jobs are going away. As you adopt cloud computing, don’t bury your head in the sand. Instead, prepare for the changes that will likely occur:

  • If your job is in the datacenter, learn what the equivalent position is in a cloud company, and try to make the jump. Or start retraining now for something else; after all, cloud providers won’t need more than a few percent of today’s datacenter staff.
  • The combination of devops and cloud will remove some of the layers of management in both IT and vendor software organizations. If you can’t code, test, or deploy, you likely will need to find another gig. There won’t be much room for middle managers.

When jobs are eliminated through the use of technology, such as cloud computing, new ones typically pop up in another places. For example, my current job as a cloud consultant did not exist 15 years ago because the cloud did not exist.

Still, it’s a fantasy to think that some new type of job will appear to replace every job lost to automation or every person can switch to the jobs that do get created. That’s why you should start prepping now for the job losses that will come, to increase your chances that you can move to one of the jobs that remains or is created. It’s a game of musical chairs, so start practicing before the music stops.