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One survey says most workloads are still in on-premise data centers. Another analysis says it’s all going to the cloud. Are we at a tipping point? If so, better get ready.

“The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” ― Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Seeing a tipping point coming is of immense value. You can be prepared for the implications. When it comes to cloud computing we have watched it over the last ten years go from “there is really nothing new here, we did that with mainframes” to “someday almost all computing will be in the cloud”. So which is it and why should you care?

Well, how about this: up to 40% of your folks working in IT may soon be gone. At the very least, they won’t all be the ones who are there now and guess what? They know it and are worried. This leads to consequences for you. Their actions (or inactions) will directly affect your competitiveness.

Can we figure out what is going on? The data is really confusing. The big three (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Alphabet’s Google Compute) have recently posted some very impressive financial numbers associated with their cloud growth. But then you read in a recent survey that 65% of IT workloads are still in corporate owned on-premise data centers; 22% are in data centers leased from third parties, and only 13% are actually in the cloud. The same survey showed that 70% of those polled admitted they really didn’t know a good way to get to the cloud.

But wait, McKinsey research demonstrates that we are moving from building IT to buying it from the cloud. Take a look at these numbers:

Sure looks like there is a trend to move workloads to the cloud. It’s even more significant when you examine where all the machines that do the work are actually going. There is a big shift in servers and storage going into cloud providers instead of enterprise data centers:

If this is all true, then what gives? After ten years of cloud adoption and experimentation, could we be at the Tipping Point. When even very conservative banks realize it’s time to move to the cloud, something is different. And remember, after a Tipping Point things go exponential. It’s not going to grow x% more each year. It is going to double or more each year. (If you want to get a good idea of what exponential growth feels like, see this prior post.)

Forrester reports that because of moving to the cloud, in just five to seven years, your IT department will be 40% smaller and the remainder are going to look very different than today’s staff. New roles will be created, including service brokers and integrators, who will decide which cloud-based services a company should bring in and how to make sure they work seamlessly with existing technologies. Experts who specialize in “change management” also will be in demand, and they’ll be tasked with helping employees adapt to digital infrastructure and the culture of a modern IT group.

Put yourself in the shoes of those geeks down in IT who control the very lifeblood of your firm. According to a new report from ScienceLogic, 28% of IT pros are concerned that the growth of cloud infrastructure adoption could put their current job at risk. The main reasons why are because of improper tools to manage the cloud (50%), insufficient knowledge of where to migrate workloads (37%), and lacking the skills to confidently lead a cloud deployment (31%).

Now consider what kind of behavior this fear may produce. Are you getting recommendations to stick to the old way of running your IT shop? Is it still taking three to six months to get anything done? Have you seen foot-dragging by IT when it comes to adopting new digital tools in marketing, finance, sales, and human resources? Do your competitors seem to beat you at going digital: they are gaining market share, becoming more profitable and grabbing the best talent?

The first rule is to ask the right question. The answer is: Welcome to the Tipping Point. Now, it’s your move.

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