Due to the influence of the cloud, the role of the IT manager is changing dramatically. The focus is no longer on technology and IT administration, but on service management and consulting.
Is the IT department dying out? With the spread of cloud computing, the raison d'être of in-house IT is increasingly being questioned. After all, why maintain complex and expensive IT infrastructures when corporate users can provide themselves with the tools and services they need? Cloud services can be activated and released quickly, within minutes, and IT services can be obtained and paid for according to actual demand, just like electricity and water.
If IT services come more or less automatically from the cloud, the IT manager and CIO - as he is called in larger companies - may also become a discontinued model. A Forbes article entitled "Will CIOs Disappear in the Cloud?" discussed this question several years ago.
But this development has not happened - and will not happen in the medium term. However, with the broad acceptance of cloud services, the role of the IT manager and the requirements to be fulfilled are changing dramatically. Instead of the IT systems and the technology as in the past, the focus is now on the users and the IT services. The focus of the IT manager's tasks is now much broader.
IT managers advise and mediate
Several studies confirm this trend. In a survey of 100 CIOs from EMEA by the network manufacturer Brocade, half of the IT managers said they had to worry less about the basis of the IT infrastructure because of the trend towards the cloud. Instead, other skills are becoming more important. "Due to the influence of the cloud and the democratisation of IT outside the control of the IT department, the role of the CIO is increasingly evolving towards consulting and mediation," the study says.
Because more and more external IT services are being used, the IT manager must take the user's perspective and understand which services are best suited for completing certain tasks. He should select from the complex range of services - whether internal or external - the one that simultaneously meets the user's requirement profile and the demands for high service quality, budget compatibility and legal certainty.
The IT manager thus becomes an authority who compares service offers on the market and evaluates them for use in the company - he becomes a service manager. A central role of the IT manager will therefore be that of the "cloud service broker". The analyst firm Gartner introduced the term some time ago - in the course of the unmistakable trend that brokering cloud services is becoming increasingly important.
More strategic responsibility
The shift to service manager catapults the IT manager away from technology - towards business and strategic issues. With this shift, the IT leader can bring IT much closer to business processes - delivering real benefits to the business.
The IT director should seize the opportunity to take on strategic responsibility and get deeper into the operational business, IT analysts advise. "The important function of the CIO is to ensure access to applications and services. It will be of increasing business-critical, strategic importance for the growth of companies in the future," says Frank Kölmel, senior director at Brocade.
Especially in digital transformation, the IT manager plays a prominent role today because he supports the company in achieving strategic business goals better and faster. He works on the future business models, introduces technical innovations, develops strategies and defines guidelines.
It is therefore crucial for IT leaders to have a clear understanding of the priorities of the individual business areas in the company and to know how technology and data can be used optimally for all requirements. A close interlocking of IT and management is indispensable here.