Head in the Clouds – Fear of job losses

Some IT professionals especially on the infrastructure and operations side of IT, are reluctant to move to cloud as they believe the may be putting themselves out of work. Executives who have built there departments and reputations based on one vendor’s technology are unwilling to abandon that vendor, retrain some of their staff and restructure (a euphemism for “let go”) the rest. This is entirely human and an understandable fear.  These executive and department holdouts may broadcast their support for a cloud strategy while continuing business as usual and implementing their own favored, on premise, vendor and technical solutions.

Unfortunately job losses are a sad fact of today’s enterprise. Employee confidence in employment longevity is low and consequently so is employee loyalty. Cutting people, is simply too easy to do and a knee jerk reaction to cost control initiatives. When executives are struggling to deliver it is often their staff that pay the highest price. But the cost to an enterprise of letting people go, is so much higher than just the cost of the packages and transition services. Institutional knowledge walks out the door. Investment in skills and experience is lost.  Those that remain feel survivor guilt and have to work harder; while speculating on when they will be next. The bottom line is that major change is painful, but the challenge for executives is to manage through this – transition, retrain people and refocus people on the new world and on the new strategy.

IT infrastructure and operations departments will likely shrink over time. But, employees will morph into service management roles and cloud brokerage roles. Others will move to work directly for the business units on their application development and support teams. They will provide key infrastructure skills to the application teams for the end to end enablement of the infrastructure layer. Also, there will be new technology roles emerging as we move into the digital enabled world. Other infrastructure IT professionals, who are less willing/able to change and refocus their skills will leave the enterprise and join cloud and technology vendors. These cloud service providers will need to expand their talent pool as their services are consumed more and become ubiquitous. The will need to acquire people who understand how banks and insurance companies consume IT services.

This is not a perfect situation, it’s clear that some jobs will be lost. However, there will be a five to ten year plus transition period while enterprises move to cloud. During this period, enterprises will need to migrate applications off of legacy infrastructure, decommission and standardize and implement automated monitoring, management and control. For many organizations such as banks and insurance companies this work is complex and challenging. It will require skilled IT staff with the institutional knowledge to do this work successfully while minimizing risk and impact to the business.

The benefits of cloud are that it can offload the routine management tasks and risk associated with the underpinning infrastructure. This allows the IT department to focus more on the user and less on the plumbing. Automation for both delivery, management and control will help eliminate routine low value tasks and AI will enable faster problem identification and resolution. The IT staff become brokers, enablers and decision makers. IT departments need to morph from being inwardly focused on keeping the lights on to outwardly focused on enabling their users and customers to adopt and consume cloud services.


Simon Morris is a Digital Transformation leader at KPMG.  When his head’s not in the clouds, he is riding his bike, carving turns on his snowboard, or helping his son build water cooled computers. He can be reached at simonmorris@kpmg.ca