Cloud computing is slowly but surely becoming the primary enterprise operating model. Gartner recently placed the technology in the top ten IT trends, and IDC estimates that over the next three years the cloud could generate up to 14 million new jobs around the world, with 1.2 million of these being in Europe.

As the cloud is used more for mainstream purposes, this will have a knock-on effect on the IT department’s role. It will evolve from a systems administrator – an arbiter of what the enterprise can and cannot have – to a service administrator – an agent, which helps users get the most out of their cloud-based applications.

There are four distinct areas where IT departments need to usher in change if they want to ensure that they remain indispensable to the enterprise:

1. A changing view of security

Traditionally, IT has owned security and acted as the guardian of data and systems access. However, with the move to the cloud, most security will be provided by the cloud provider. With this in mind, IT departments will have to act as the middle man between the business units and the cloud provider. They will need to help the enterprise understand the security model of the cloud provider, and help the cloud provider build a security model that takes the enterprise’s particular needs into account.

2. Becoming a trusted advisor

Rather than being perceived as an inhibitor of productivity, IT departments need to be recognised as agents working in the best interests of the enterprise, offering the necessary support to ensure success. As an enterprise’s business units become increasingly free to choose the cloud-based applications they want without consulting IT, they will need guidance regarding best practices, and IT departments are ideally placed to provide this.

3. Reconsidering internal processes

Processes such as helpdesks, support policies, and support procedures have traditionally been based on-premise and within IT’s control. However, with a third-party cloud provider involved, IT’s existing model won’t necessarily accommodate cloud-based systems and applications. So, it is imperative for IT departments to embrace the new role of service administrator. If this is not done, then it risks being bypassed when technical issues arise, with enterprises going directly to the cloud provider, leaving IT out in the cold.

4. Shifting towards strategic thinking

Today, some 80 percent of IT’s resources are focused on systems maintenance, or keeping things up and running. However, as the cloud becomes the primary operating model for the enterprise, and maintenance falls squarely on the shoulders of the cloud-service provider, IT has a golden opportunity to change its reputation within the organisation. To do this, IT departments should determine which critical business initiatives they can support, how emerging technologies can benefit the enterprise, and then take the opportunity to become more proactive in carving out and implementing future plans for the business.

Of course, there will always be some exceptions to the rule, and it’s likely that some applications will never make it to the cloud. For example, the likes of trading algorithms for financial services companies may be too integral to the value of the organisation to ever be comfortably hosted off-premise. In these cases, IT’s role will remain unchanged. Having said that, most applications will find a new home in the cloud, and it’s up to today’s IT departments to anticipate tomorrow’s shift and embrace the opportunities the changes bring.