Cloud computing clearly puts a lot of stress on the career plans for many IT professionals. Success in the cloud demands a whole new set of skills than the ones that helped advance careers in more traditional IT environments.
In Part One of this series, we looked at the technology-oriented skills required in the cloud. Here in Part Two we’ll check out the softer, more business-oriented skills sets, and delve into the critical role of metrics and analytics.
4. Organizational strategies and processes
The always-on, ever-changing nature of cloud environments and modern software in general means many “traditional” methods of doing things in IT simply won’t work in cloud-first companies. Siloed teams that don’t communicate and collaborate? Not going to hack it. 18-month release cycles for new applications? Ditto.
To keep up, cloud-first pros need to modernize their organizational strategies and processes. The DevOps approach is Exhibit A: DevOps increasingly goes hand in hand with the cloud, and DevOps experience will be increasingly in demand at cloud-first organizations. In fact, DevOps skills are becoming crucial even to longstanding IT job titles and roles such as Systems Administrator, according to Dice.com. It’s not that DevOps will eliminate the sysadmin role, but Dice says, “It’s a role that’s simply evolving due to servers migrating to the cloud and a transition from task-based roles to strategic contributors.”
Regardless of job title, a search for DevOps turns up more than 1,400 positions on Dice, and more than 7,500 on Indeed.com. That’s, uh, quantifiable demand.
5. Management and negotiation skills
Cloud computing demands renewed attention to a range of related business skills, from people management to communication to negotiation. The new requirements can be grouped into two buckets:
- Internal (working with other departments)
- External (working with vendors)
On the internal side, the massive growth of cloud computing, mobile, and Shadow IT means that the old lockdown approaches to IT—and the us-versus-them mentality it sometimes inspired—need to be replaced. The new world order is all about leading rather than policing, educating and encouraging users to make smart choices.
This often requires a champion, someone whose knows their stuff and can foster not just acceptance but real enthusiasm. Over at DevOps.com, Jonathan Fletcher says that DevOps transformations, in particular, require a “rock star” to lure skeptical team members on board.
On the external side, you need to update your playbook for a cloud-first environment. Know the landscape and stay on top of it. For example, it’s critical to understand cloud security concerns and how to manage them—including new paradigms for securing applications and data online.
Cloud career success also depends on a solid understanding of the financial implications of cloud computing. Total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) analyses are vastly different when subscribing to a cloud service rather than purchasing on-premise hardware and software—they’re challenging even for cloud innovators, according to InformationWeek. One baseline necessity: understand there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to cloud TCO/ROI, and tailor your projections to your specific business. Successful cloud pros will see the big picture and enhance their value to employers by ensuring realistic, transparent understanding of costs and other financial matters in the cloud.
To translate that understanding into favorable deals, cloud vendor management will increasingly reward advanced negotiation skills. As law firm Morrison Foerster noted last year in a report on Negotiating Cloud Contracts, the once standard “take it or leave it” approach to cloud contracts is waning. Negotiation doesn’t always come easily to IT staffers, but it’s worth building those skills into your cloud career toolkit. For example, Coursera, in tandem with the University of Michigan, offers a free online course: Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies & Skills.
6. Metrics and analytics
The ability to measure and analyze a vast amount of data about how your cloud environments perform is mission-critical for successful cloud pros. And it’s a skill that bridges the broader sets of technology and business skills needed to propel a career in the cloud. Let’s look at three areas of metrics and data you’ll need to understand in order to deliver value to your company:
- Usage & costs: This echoes the financial skills mentioned in Part One: if you’re not measuring actual usage and costs of cloud resources—especially as they grow and spread—you’re setting yourself up for unnecessary complexity and waste. Moreover, it’s hard to measure real ROI without a clear picture of usage and costs.
- Application performance: From basics like availability to more granular software analytics, monitoring application performance is a crucial skill for cloud pros. But it’s important to understand how monitoring performance in the cloud differs from working in on-premise and hybrid cloud environments.
- Business-specific analytics: Cloud computing promises to help unlock the kinds of customizable, business-specific information that’s of special value for particular stakeholders. Cloud pros who can deliver custom analytics tailored to the needs of a variety of audiences in their organizations will reap the rewards. The ability to turn data into meaningful insights that can help drive better, faster business decisions is a key factor that will help distinguish the cloud experts from the dabblers.
Clear sailing into the cloud
IT workers and executives can’t help but see the ongoing impact of the shift to cloud computing. While the benefits to their organizations may seem clear, some tech professionals understandably worry that the dramatic migration to the cloud could impact their careers in unpredictable ways.
It doesn’t have to work that way. Cloud computing offers a huge array of opportunities to IT folks who can leverage their existing expertise while also embracing the “new” business and technology skill sets detailed in this series. There will always be a few folks who hang back and cling to the last remnants of the old ways—and there will likely be roles for them for a while to come. But the future—and the opportunity—lies in the cloud.
Be sure to also read 6 Key Skills You Need to Build a Career in the Cloud: Part 1