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Hybrid IT: The new frontier

In the early part of the 20th century, telephone use grew so rapidly that some industry executives fretted that the world would soon run short of telephone operators. The solution was to make everyone a telephone operator, and that’s why direct dialing was invented.

A century later, we face the same conundrum. Demand for IT services is growing so quickly – and business users are so sophisticated – that the traditional model of an all-powerful central IT organization is becoming a relic. Many organizations are now adopting a hybrid model using a combination of on-premise and cloud services spiked with a healthy dose of self-service provisioning to improve responsiveness and customer satisfaction.

Conceptually, hybrid cloud and hybrid IT aren’t all that different. In both cases, the idea is to put computing resources and applications where they make the most sense. Translating that model to an organizational model requires discarding some old assumptions about what IT should do, however.

In a hybrid IT model, applications are exposed as services and users can mix and match resources as they wish. That doesn’t mean letting a hundred flowers bloom. IT must define governance standards and data controls depending on such factors as cost, security, regulatory requirements and policies. Some applications may be impractical to move to the cloud, but many decision-support and end-user productivity needs can now be satisfied through cloud infrastructure or software-as-a-service.

There are several good reasons to consider hybrid IT for your business. The most important is agility. Freeing up users to make more of their own choices gets applications into production more quickly, and users who own their decisions have more invested in success.

Security and flexibility are also enhanced by spreading resources around among different service providers. As noted in the AT&T Cybersecurity Insights report, the volume of attacks on corporate data centers is growing faster than most businesses can respond. Having all your IT eggs in a single basket is a bad idea at a time when a single distributed denial of service attack can bring your company down for days.

A third benefit is liberating IT organizations from the drudgery of provisioning and operations to focus on applications that benefit the business. This imperative has never been more important.

Adopting a hybrid IT model requires culture change. It means discarding not-invented-here thinking in favor of enabling others to make smart choices. It means realizing that the IT department doesn’t always have the best answer, and that’s okay as long as the job gets done.

Skills must change as well. The most important role of a hybrid IT organization is data governance, or making sure that data is accessible and protected regardless of where it lives. IT professionals need to develop negotiation skills and deep knowledge of cloud services to broker various options. Profiles must be clearly defined and carefully managed to ensure that users don’t get in over their head or that use of external services spirals out of control.

Not all IT professionals will make this transition successfully, but for the majority who do, their work becomes more fulfilling and their skills more marketable. Hybrid IT in no way diminishes the importance of the IT organization. On the contrary, it recognizes that all companies are becoming technology companies.

Paul Gillin writes, speaks and trains marketers and corporate executives to think like publishers. Gillin specializes in social media for B2B companies. He is a veteran technology journalist with more than 25 years of editorial leadership experience. All opinions expressed are his own. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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