"Being upfront about it, not hiding it, keeping it very open and making sure IT employees understood was very helpful to our department's successful transition," Pierce said.
That's what IT leaders also did at electronic manufacturing services provider Sanmina-SCI when it decided to move 16,000 employees from an on-premise Microsoft Outlook-Exchange system to Google Apps, a communication and collaboration suite hosted by Google.
"The starting point is laying the context of what one is trying to do and where IT organizations in general are headed to over the next several years. That helps to frame the discussion," said Manesh Patel, CIO of Sanmina-SCI, which has about 700 IT staffers.
"Setting that context is the first thing that CIOs need to do," he added.
At Sanmina-SCI, IT leaders told their team that with cloud computing, IT departments can shift grunt, hands-on system maintenance to hosted vendors, freeing up the IT department to provide value with more custom work tailored to their business.
"My view is that IT is becoming more of a service-oriented organization, providing more value-added services, with less emphasis on [maintaining in-house] systems, networks and architectures," Patel said. "You still need some of that, but not as much."
When making the pitch to IT staffers, CIOs shouldn't focus exclusively on the issue of cutting costs. "If you look at it from a pure cost standpoint, you run the risk of creating a lot of negative reaction," Patel said.
As for most organizations, cost was an important element and initial driver for Sanmina-SCI, but the company was also seeking a longer-term value in making employees more productive and more effective when working with customers and suppliers.
"Make sure you communicate those things and provide the vision of what that means. Sometimes IT organizations are very cost-centric, and that's the only message," Patel added.
Momentum, which has about 2,500 employees, was using the SpikeSource and Intel-backed SuiteTwo collaboration suite, which was discontinued. Socialtext, whose software was packaged into SuiteTwo, stepped in with a technically flexible and improved cloud-based offer.
"IT leadership wanted software products that could move as fast as our business, and with this framework we can pull software in or out of our portal literally overnight," Pierce said.
In some cases, IT staffers quickly embrace the switch, like at Duralee Fabrics, which ditched an on-premise, overtaxed and creaky e-mail system that crashed frequently and replaced it with Google Apps for its 200 users. This lifted a heavy burden off of its six-person IT staff.
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