How Culture Drives Cloud Success

Published on December 21, 2017 - LinkedIn - Keiran Mott

Leading a move to the cloud requires more than technical transformation. It requires a shift in hardware, software, and processes, but most importantly a shift in culture. The cloud mindset affects changes in planning projects, cost structures, project execution, and educating and developing staff. There are some essentials that cloud transformation is built off, and some common culture misconceptions that, unless addressed, will undercut the benefit of the project, and may even sabotage the project itself.

Misconceptions

There are several misconceptions that can hinder cloud adoption. 

Wrong: Cloud is always cheaper.

Cloud technology can be cheaper. But the attributes that make it cheaper also can make it more expensive to run. When shipping workloads to the cloud, often, you can achieve better prices. But because of the scalable nature of the cloud, the cost will scale with demand. When the solution first begins, due to the infrastructure, the demand can skyrocket, and the usage costs will increase as well. Unless the internal structures have been set up to control for this, the price will be as expensive, or more expensive, than hardware solutions. 

Right: Cloud can be cheaper if set up correctly. 

To remedy this, people need to think about cloud with the same depth of consideration as physical hardware. It will allow for greater flexibility and innovation, but systems need to be set in place for the management of cost and over-runs in demand and computing power.

Wrong: Project planning will stay the same.

Cloud installation needs a shift in how software development is planned. A crucial misconception is that projects evolve the same way. For example, think about development software environments. For a development project under legacy systems, a project might need eight environments for testing, deployment, and running, and they would need those eight environments to run for the whole duration that the software project is developed.

Right: Plan to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud.

Using a cloud solution, projects are able to switch on and off environments at different stages of the project and can automate this process. While the planning process using older systems thinking will still work, business won’t be able to take advantage of the benefits that cloud brings. Planning in cloud environments requires thinking about not only how to accomplish the project, but how best to use cloud technologies to accomplish it faster or more efficiently. 

Wrong: Cloud adoption means a lack of control and potential job loss for employees. 

The shift to managed infrastructure can mean a feeling of loss of control. Now, someone else is responsible for patching servers and software and maintaining infrastructure. This invokes a kind of protectionism, and a fear that when data is in the public cloud, it can’t be managed. 

Right: Cloud adoption saves time on maintenance, meaning staff can reskill and grow.

The idea that projects don’t need an infrastructure manager is not correct. However, it is correct that new skills need to be developed in the move to cloud. The cultural shift that therefore needs to happen is employees see the cloud as an opportunity to re-learn, re-skill, and change job skills and qualifications to a new role.

Wrong: The barriers to cloud adoption are insurmountable. 

The most dangerous cultural aspects towards cloud adoption are the tendency to put up barriers to prevent the changing of ways. This also manifests in a negativity towards the ability of the cloud and the ways organisations can take advantage of it. 

Right: Barriers can be overcome.

To tackle the attitude that security and data sovereignty issues are impossible boundaries, demonstrate how their challenges will be overcome. Intelligent planning and detail on the various cloud service configurations can address these problems. A current example is the CIA, which built it’s own private cloud to provide efficiency to employees and other agencies while maintaining security. Good planning and thorough investigation can address fear and uncertainty.

Wrong: Adopting the cloud is risky

Cloud services are only as risky as the plans make them. Employing secure data storage methods can address risks and issues. 

Right: Not adopting the cloud is risky. 

Reframe the discussion around implementation by listing the risks that the department is exposed to by not moving to the cloud. These may include: losing the opportunity to take advantage of the investment in technology, reliability, and functionality that cloud vendors are making, losing access to machine learning, difficulty making infrastructure available for increased demand or requiring scalability they can’t access, and all the risks associated with physical infrastructure, like failure or updates.

Creating Culture Essentials for Cloud

Cloud gets built on a stable cultural base. The cultural shift to the cloud requires as much strategic thinking as planning the technicals of the migration. The company needs to plan and account for the cultural change that will need to occur with the cloud. This happens in a series of steps: 

Assess department culture for common misconceptions, above. Then, strategise as to how to combat those misconceptions.

Assess what levels of expertise exist in your staff. Staff might be your most capable asset, or there may be a skill gap that exists. To find it, consider a series of workshops and assessments to locate and define them. From there, an education campaign to address these specific points will address the cultural needs that will occur 

Assessing requirements for ongoing maintenance. An agency needs to determine capacity to manage your environments after moving to the cloud. How will the solution be maintained after installation? Who’ll be responsible for it? Do they have the necessary experience? Creating this experience base will make sure that the project doesn’t falter after it’s been installed.

It’s also important to note that it’s likely that no agency will move entirely to the cloud. There are some applications and solutions that are best-suited to a virtualised environment, but agencies still need infrastructure that isn’t virtualised. The key is to define the necessary amount of cloud, then build capability for that.

The most important way to organise culture change is to demonstrate that cloud technology works using a successful project. If it’s not executed well, people will revert back to the old ways of doing things. Therefore, it’s essential to get the first project right. By addressing these common misconceptions and creating the right culture, you build the solid bedrock to support your technological transformation.

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