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Future I&O Leaders Will Do Much More Than Pay Down Tech Debt

I recently attended an industry conference in Las Vegas focused on infrastructure and cloud strategies. In the opening keynote, delivered by a prominent industry influencer and research analyst, two things stood out to me. 

65% of open Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) leadership roles will be filled with people with zero infrastructure and operations experience.

First, the speaker noted that 65% of open Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) leadership roles will be filled with people with zero infrastructure and operations experience. Second, they noted that the biggest challenge for infrastructure and operations teams is managing technical debt.  At first glance, these two things seem unrelated. But a closer look reveals that they foreshadow a dramatic transformation for infrastructure and operations teams over the next five years.  

I&O Leaders with zero experience? 

Zero experience. ZERO! It seems insane that two-thirds of open I&O leadership roles will go to people without I&O experience—this really tells you something about where the coming I&O transformation is headed. As companies expand their cloud footprint and migrate more applications to the cloud, the skills required of I&O teams that manage a large data center footprint are often not even relevant to managing a multicloud environment. Rather than configuring and provisioning infrastructure, planning capacity, and driving efficiency and utilization, multicloud environments need I&O teams to manage cloud costs, optimize and rightsize resources, and govern usage.  

It’s easy to see that making the transition from a data center-centric I&O discipline to a cloud-centric one will require a little creative destruction. The next generation of I&O leaders will be more IT generalists with business acumen. They’ll need to be more cross-functional and understand the business, financial, and compliance and governance aspects of delivering IT services—whether delivered from public, private, or hybrid cloud. Put into perspective, it makes sense that CIOs are not looking for I&O specialists to lead their cloud transformation.  

Getting out from underneath tech debt 

It seems like we’ve been saying that 80% of IT spending is just keeping the lights on since 2000 or so (when I first started as an industry analyst). I wrote a lot of research notes in those days about using the latest and greatest management solution to automate mundane tasks and free up budgets for value-adding things. Nearly twenty years later and we’re still spending 70-80% of IT budgets on maintenance and uptime. With all that maintenance spending, we now have a new boogieman: tech debt—the innovation and new services that either IT owes to its constituents or a technology vendor owes to its customers.  

Cost and agility are most often cited as the key drivers of cloud adoption. But an often-overlooked benefit of cloud adoption is better management of tech debt.  A cloud-centric company isn’t going to eliminate tech debt, however, it can change the nature of it dramatically. 

As a company migrates more workloads from the data center to public clouds, infrastructure debt should be paid down, while the debt owed in terms of new application functionality will go up. Which debt is more valuable? The I&O leaders of the near future know that servicing a debt of new functionality and services is a far better use of time and resources than servicing hardware and infrastructure debt.  

CloudHealth by VMware is designed for the next generation of I&O leaders  

It makes sense that enterprises will hire I&O leaders with different skills in order to pursue hybrid and multicloud strategies and better manage their tech debt. CloudHealth was designed for just that. It delivers a single platform with visibility into how every cloud resource is being used and by whom. It facilitates collaboration across developer, finance, engineering, and line of business teams because they can all see the same data on cloud usage, but view it in a context that’s most important to them. With the addition of CloudHealth Hybrid, these teams can also include data center (vSphere) and hybrid cloud (VMware Cloud on AWS) costs in their reporting, optimization, and governance. This is exactly what future I&O leaders need.  

I had a great conversation during VMworld 2019 that brings this all home. Two attendees that were I&O professionals asked for a CloudHealth demo. I recognize the company as a current CloudHealth customer so I asked them why they needed a demo. Their response was telling, “We haven’t had much to do with managing cloud usage in the company, but the CFO just told us that we do now, and we need to learn the platform.” 

So, there you have it. I&O professionals won’t have much choice. Either adapt your skills to be a contributor to business transformation in the cloud or be replaced by someone who does. And CloudHealth is the most trusted software platform to help you be that cloud operations expert.