Shifting Human Capital: What to Do When a Key Team Member Leaves

This blog is part of our Tribridge Cloud Playbook series, which is designed to help IT professionals proactively address common business disruptors.

The only constant in the IT field is change. While most people think of that maxim in terms of technology, it's also true of staff. In theory, turnover shouldn't cause major disruptions: if skills and knowledge are properly distributed among team members, then departures shouldn't have a significant impact on operations. In practice, though, this is rarely the case. Too often, specialized knowledge — especially concerning legacy systems and infrastructure — becomes concentrated in the hands of a few long-time employees. When these employees leave, companies struggle to replace their skills.

Managers in this position have three options: hire a new person with a comparable skill set, update the infrastructure so that the skill set is no longer needed, or migrate to the cloud.

While the first option may seem at first glance to be the easiest choice, it presents many challenges:

  • The more specific the skill set you need to replace, the fewer qualified candidates there will be — especially when the skill set concerns legacy technology that's nearing the end of its life.
  • Because talent is scarce, costs will be high.
  • Investments in legacy technology and skill sets are also unlikely to appreciate over the long run. They may solve an immediate problem, but they likely will make the team's eventual transition to new infrastructure even more challenging.

Maintaining skill sets to service a piece of infrastructure that's approaching obsolescence isn't just a small cost; it's a productivity drain for the whole team. In short, replacing the skill set is a very expensive Band-Aid for a problem that will eventually require a more lasting solution.

The question of modernizing legacy infrastructure is "when," not "whether." Instead of developing skill sets to meet the needs of a soon-to-be-obsolete infrastructure, a better option may be to update the infrastructure now rather than putting off the inevitable any longer. This option is often more resource-intensive in the short run: In addition to capital expenditures, this approach also requires an investment of time and attention from the senior team. But every infrastructure complication you simplify frees up your team to focus on more valuable work.

Which brings us to the third option. For companies who want to invest in strategic, long-term solutions, migrating applications to the cloud may provide the best ROI. The benefits of a well-designed, managed cloud solution can be compelling. It can enable your team to:

  • Save time. Cloud providers typically have specialists in key areas including security, networking, server, storage and operations. They can help get you up and running in the cloud quickly and efficiently. And your IT team can focus on competencies that are specific to your core business rather than spending time on the care and feeding of servers and networking.
  • Save money. A managed cloud solution lets you reap the benefits of that specialized expertise without incurring the expense of acquiring and maintaining it in-house. If you choose a provider whose standard cloud offering is built to flex capacity up or down as your computing demands increase or decrease, without overage or additional charges, you can have predictable costs with no surprises.
  • Reduce risk. Cloud providers have compliance specialists to ensure compliance. If your business requires compliance with industry-specific security and regulatory requirements, make sure to choose a provider that offers the appropriate compliance and governance solutions, such as SOC1, SOC2, SOC3, SOX, HIPAA, Safe Harbor, PCI, ITAR and/or FIPS-140-2. Your cloud provider can also configure your systems to be always available; look for a provider that guarantees 99.99% uptime.
  • Improve agility. A cloud solution can provide servers and capacity on demand, so you have capacity and responsiveness as soon as you need them, rather than when you get around to adding them (or secure funding approval for them).

Any of these solutions requires both lead time and financial investment, so managers should plan well in advance for potential staff and skill set disruptions. A manager who is caught off guard by an employee departure is much more likely to make poor decisions about next steps. Having a clearly defined transition plan — which includes the option to retire some infrastructure or move it to the cloud — will help managers ensure that they've weighed all the options and can make thoughtful, strategic decisions.

For more solutions to potential pitfalls that lead to sub-optimal IT infrastructure decisions, check out the Tribridge Cloud Playbook and our infographic.

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