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The cloud changes IT culture, demands new tech skills

Sharon Gaudin | Oct. 15, 2015
Business is now pushing IT to get over its job fears and go all-in on the cloud

Thinking like a startup

At The Weather Company, the parent company behind The Weather Channel, and Weather Underground, managers don't even use the term "IT department" anymore.

"We're taking a whole new approach," said Landon Williams, vice president of infrastructure architecture and services at The Weather Company. "We call it technology. The culture we wanted to have people in when they're approaching decision-making is not to think like a legacy IT department, but to think like a start-up, next-gen department."

landon williams weather company
Sharon Gaudin/Computerworld Landon Williams, vice president of infrastructure architecture and services at The Weather Company. 

The Weather Company simply doesn't want its technical staff to be locked into an old, traditional way of thinking about solving problems and advancing the business. A name change, it decided, was the best way to start making that happen.

Williams' staff had to get their collective heads around the idea of going all-in with the cloud. It took them about two years to see that all the changes they were going through ultimately was going to make their lives easier.

"It takes a while for everybody to get their heads around the scariness of change," he said. "As with any evolution anywhere, you've got the ingrained idea to go with the way something has always been done. To approach folks who are digging their heels in, we tell them, 'Remember this is about business and revenue and not the technology you've liked.' "

Working with the cloud simply pushes or pulls you into new ways of thinking about how you get your job done.

Bob Micielli, director of enterprise technology services for King County, Wash., was taken by surprise when business executives didn't put up the biggest roadblocks to moving to the cloud.

Those roadblocks, he said, came from his own people.

"The biggest pushback was from my own staff," said Micielli, who saved the county $1 million by moving from tape backup to a cloud-based backup, as well as $300,000 in operating costs year-over-year.

"That, I've found, has been the biggest challenge. People are competent in their certain technologies and now they're coming in and trying to figure out these new services. They, before, felt like experts. 'I'm a storage architect. All I do is storage.' In this world, that doesn't work anymore. You have to know about storage and security and networking."

Skills change

Stephen Orban, the head of enterprise strategy at AWS and the former CIO and global head of technology at Dow Jones & Co., said when he's talking to enterprises about cloud migration, the single biggest sticking point is not at the executive level but with CIOs trying to get their teams to develop the skills they need to make the transition.


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