"Organizations that do not have a high-level cloud strategy driven by their business strategy will significantly increase their risk of failure and wasted investment."
This quote, attributed to Gartner Vice President and Research Fellow David Cearley, is more than a soundbite; it's a prescient look at the reason so many digital transformation initiatives fail and why many businesses have a fear of falling behind. The path to cloud innovation is littered with the could-haves and almosts — and companies often become reverse role models by failing to consider the human element.
When choosing the details of a high-level cloud strategy, it's equally important to consider the necessary manpower as it is to consider the required technology. Knowing the roles that will be needed for each task is critical to successfully execute a cloud strategy. Organizations should think about creating new roles like the ones below as they continue moving to the cloud.
1. Architects and Engineers
At a glance, the overlap between cloud architects and cloud engineers may seem significant, but having both on a team with differentiated roles can be crucial. While some crossover between the roles might make an organization feel they are interchangeable, businesses can actually gain a lot of freedom by delegating specific responsibilities to each role. By identifying needs and distributing them between the two roles, businesses can effectively cover a big part of their high-level planning and low-level implementation in one fell swoop.
While definitions vary from business to business, the general difference between the two goes something like this. Architects, who assume more of a leadership role, make the plans, dialoguing often with various departments within their organization. This is why companies with an outside software sales component frequently use them as hybrid pre-sales/sales/customer contact roles to the point some cloud architects even get a commission on sales that close while delivering high-level designs.
Engineers, meanwhile, are more responsible for turning the vision into a working architecture, and they may have little-to-no experience interfacing with end-users. It's the difference between laying out the high-level vision for a new cloud storage and content delivery architecture and laying down the pieces that make it a functioning tool: Both are critical — and critically different — in the roles they provide.
2. Compliance Personnel
The move to cloud has significant implications for the average organization's compliance activity, making a blend of duties necessary whether the organization modifies existing roles or creates new ones. In much the same way standard IT personnel need a jack-of-all-trades skill set to flourish, compliance personnel in an increasingly cloud-forward workplace should have knowledge of regulations currently affecting the industry, a keen eye for ways future trends may impact operations, and — perhaps the biggest change from compliance work in a non-cloud environment — the interpersonal and biz-communications skills needed to work shoulder-to-shoulder with third-party vendors.
The biggest reason for this change? In general, regulatory bodies often ignore the line between a business and its third-party vendors when creating and enforcing the rules, an intentional philosophical stance taken to prevent organizations from hiding behind vendors when a compliance violation occurs. In practice, this means the primary company is every bit as responsible as a noncompliant vendor if the third party's systems house or transmit data the wrong way. It also effectively moves compliance from an internal-only role to one that spans the breadth of the business. Accordingly, cloud compliance personnel should have the role competencies, skills, and knowledge needed to monitor and enforce relevant rules anywhere the business' systems intersect with those that are external.
As one of the fastest-rising roles in the enterprise technology world, cloud product managers are the big-idea people who find ways to leverage new cloud technologies into revenue-building, job-easing solutions.
3. Development Personnel
Getting a precise thumb on what makes a developer a developer is largely up to the organization and its needs. For the purposes of this article, however, let's lay it down like this: If architects are responsible for high-level/infrastructural planning and implementation, development personnel are there to put down the code that makes it all happen.
APIs and cloud integrations will be a big part of a low-level development employee's role. A company deploying a new unified communications platform can use these individuals to connect the solution with already-existing tools. On the other hand, an organization rolling out an internal- or customer-facing app with a built-in voice or messaging component would ask their developers, among other duties, to integrate their homegrown code with APIs that enable the communication. A business may hire a team of developers and coders or a couple catch-all employees with knowledge of relevant languages, depending on needs and near future cloud plans; either way, the ability to put the moving parts together is critical, and development personnel with cloud-specific skills, certifications (AWS Developer certification is a good one to look for), and knowledge will ease the entire process.
4. Product Management
Product managers are a core component of any cloud-committed company's digital transformation initiatives, and a company doesn't need to build customer-facing solutions to benefit from their presence. As one of the fastest-rising roles in the enterprise technology world, cloud product managers are the big-idea people who find ways to leverage new cloud technologies into revenue-building, job-easing solutions.
A product manager can come from any number of technical or non-technical backgrounds. Some managers hold MBAs and come from strictly business backgrounds, while others start on a technical path like architecture or engineering and branch over to the conceptual side. One constant, though, is the ability to understand current systems and identify pain points.
For example, during the implementation of a unified communications platform, a manager could use their knowledge to help pin down the specific features employees need to share information, thus narrowing potential candidates for the engineers and architects who must find specific solutions; their expertise can also be critical in rooting out new additions that seamlessly integrate with the company's current selection of cloud solutions.
As organizations increasingly move to the cloud, they will also continue to grow, with new employees who bring new skill sets to the table, and a few familiar faces working in new places. But it's an exciting time to watch as digital transformation and the move to the cloud make it more important now than ever for companies to evolve.