Recently I gave a presentation on cloud computing to a group of what I would call traditional IT practitioners. You know the sort – those who cut their teeth on COBOL (or punch cards for that matter), who spend their days in messy server rooms and whose life revolves around walking along corridors carrying install disks of software. If I was being uncharitable I’d say the dinosaurs of the industry.

After the event I had an experience that is both sad, and telling. A chap came up to me who looked to be in his mid fifties and a long time veteran of the industry. For some sort of certification he had to maintain for his employment, he required that I sign a piece of paper confirming that he’d attended the session and fulfilled his allotted “professional development credits” for the month.

This is so completely opposite to the industry that I believe I work within – an industry where people use various means (Twitter, LinkedIn, Groups and blogs) in their pursuit of constant professional development. An industry where people strive to learn and grow – whether it be developers and engineers learning new technologies, communications people trying to broaden their knowledge base or salespeople looking to grow and develop what they do – whatever the area, I believe there is a new generation of IT professional who is ambitious, hungry and thirsty for knowledge.

These folks I’ll not dwell upon, rather I’d like to look at what the cloud means for the other folks – those dusty individuals that one might uncharitably call dinosaurs. Recently I read an interesting article about how traditional IT is reacting to the dawn of cloud computing – let’s look at some quotes…

When companies decide to unplug on-premise servers, ditch the applications housed on them and adopt vendor-hosted software in the cloud, the IT staffers in charge of supporting and maintaining those discarded in-house systems are bound to get nervous. IT staffers raised concerns about job security quickly and directly at advertising and event marketing agency Momentum Worldwide as soon as they were informed the company planned to move its enterprise portal to a cloud, software-as-a-service model offered by enterprise collaboration vendor Socialtext.

Picture1It’s an issue I often raise in my “Cloud 101” presentations. The fact that if traditional IT feels threatened by the cloud, it fundamentally raises some questions about their role within the organization.

The diagram on the left is one that I’ve used previously in presentations – it shows a continuum of IT department development with a very real end-goal of IT becoming a strategic asset to the business, providing real guidance and aid in order to realizing the strategic objectives – and that sure as hell doesn’t happen when IT is preoccupied with carrying around install disks to maintain version control of installed software.

Now I’m not belittling the real concerns around security and robustness that IT has with regards to the cloud. Neither am I belittling what IT practitioners do per se – what I am saying is that the world is changing, and if your role hinges on having a scruffy piece of paper signed on a monthly basis that gives you “professional development credits”, watch out, the world is changing.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • Good angle on the way that the dinosaurs view new developments. I guess the old-timer doesn’t even see the irony of this – he was once a junior programmer and his new thing called ‘software’ put thousands of payroll clerks etc out of a job.

    I sometimes use chauffeurs as an analogy – there was once a time when you didn’t drive yourself but had a specialist chauffeur to do the technical stuff. Apparently there were hundreds of them.

  • CPD points are not all bad. Architects have to complete them to keep their accreditation and it isn’t easy. You have to go to lots of events to get them including industry and cultural events. The fact that someone is doing them doesn’t necessarily mean that the person or industry is not full of passionate people. You will find most people in the architecture space absolutely passionate about what they do and constantly wanting to learn (if my wife and her peers are anything to go by).

  • You’re being unduly harsh, Ben. Large firms and many professions make a big commitment to continuing education,to achieve renewal of status or as part of bonus payments (demonstrating its importance). Requiring evidence of actually having done the programme is normal. With so much at stake (money and continued professional status), just like expense claims. Bureaucracies want evidence not only because some people do cheat (look what happens when politicians are trusted to only claim legitimate expenses without scrutiny), but also to demonstrate robust processes to outsiders that the professional status has meaning,

    I will not dignify your other remarks about dinosaurs with a response.

    • Jim, understand that transparency is important but there is some context here. This guy didn’t listen to a word of either of the presentations, shuffled up to get his letter signed and then proceeded to hoover up the refreshments. It’s not an isolated case but something I’ve noticed rather frequently…

  • That says something about the guy (and perhaps his boss or employer). Every industry and large organisation has some time-servers, but that’s a different problem.

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