Thinking about moving your business to the Cloud? Prioritize Education.

Uneducated opinion, rather than an educated decision, is more likely going to kill your efforts to transition to a cloud service model.

I was teaching a class at a company that already had a private cloud for application development and testing. Upper management had already bought into the idea. The cloud admins were some of the most talented cloud operators I’ve have yet met. The reason for the class was that the cloud was being underutilized. The company’s engineers — the people for whom the cloud was meant to be a resource — did not see the need for this new technology.

The reason? They did not understand it.

it is not the technical aspects that get in the way of a business being successful at using cloud to accelerate a business — it is people. Click To Tweet

Yes, there are business models that just don’t map to the cloud, but for the vast majority of modern companies today, some sort of cloud service will be a meaningful boost to their bottom line. HR and office productivity software, virtualized infrastructure, software application platforms. Cloud does come in many flavors. How it will benefit the company just needs to be clearly understood from the C-suite down to the interns.

Cloud migration is a multi-faceted beast, to be sure, and moving from a legacy enterprise system to the cloud requires appropriate technology and business migration strategy. Yet it is not the technical aspects that get in the way of a business being successful at using cloud to accelerate a business — it is people.

People — the Root cause of Cloud Success or Failure

It is fairly clear that people fear what they don’t understand. Uncertainty — real or imagined — creates monsters in closets and under beds, and creates monsters in the details of migrating to cloud.

It is also exceedingly clear that a smooth (and successful) cloud transition needs a united team. If the CIO comes up with the idea, the CTO and CEO may not be on board. If the application developers are pushing for a cloud system, the CTO and CIO may not be on board. If the CFO doesn’t understand (or misunderstands) the value a cloud transition will bring, they may become a blocker.

Part of the challenge is that while the cloud is important to different parts of your business for different reasons. Our Five Minutes of Cloud video series has a nice episode that breaks out the value of cloud for Business (Executives), for IT Operators, and for Application Developers. But in summary, business benefits from increased agility increasing revenues. There may be cost savings involved, but these are not the ‘get rid of IT department’ savings often (incorrectly) touted. Information technology — your cloud operators- will gain efficiency by handing off mundane provisioning services to users and focusing on higher value tasks. Application developers gain on demand access to systems to develop, test and deploy applications with an increase in time to market and fewer and faster bug fixes needed.

...the cloud is important to different parts of your business for different reasons. Click To Tweet

This all sounds good, but if you are in IT and believe that cloud means the end for your job, expect some pushback on that migration. If the CEO, CFO, CIO,… look at short term costs vs longterm benefits, it is possible that any one of them may become a roadblock. If app devs don’t buy into the DevOps approach to application development, they may push back.

Overcoming Uncertainty with the Cloud.

Much as you probably have a cloud migration strategy that tackles the technical aspects of moving from a legacy system to the cloud, you also need a cloud migration strategy for the people in the company.

Remember the class I was teaching with the resistant application developers? The amazing thing was that it only took one thing to convince one of the most reluctant of the bunch. After realizing that the new cloud system gave him on-demand, self-service access to resources like virtual servers, networking configuration and storage systems, he was hooked. What had originally put him off was that he would have to give up his existing servers (real and virtual) in the face of this new system. Once he realize he could get access to more of the resources he needed with out having to wait for weeks or months for provisioning, he was fully on board. He simply had not understood how the cloud could help him prior to that — and until that point he was a road block.

Building a cloud strategy should include time to get stakeholders from devs, to ops, to corporate to get educated on what the benefits and drawbacks are. Not all will be easy- especially in the short term — but again, the long term benefits are real when a cloud is properly implemented. Addressing concerns up front — system security, job security, workflow disruption, technology education- will go a long way to addressing the uncertainty and squashing monsters before they are imagined or created.

Start early, start small, be patient.

Though its tempting to view this change as a dramatic pivot to a wonderful new world of opportunity (or imminent disaster if you have yet to be won over), taking your time and phasing your transition is likely a better approach in a cloud transition.

Accepting that a cloud transition will take time, and in some cases will result in new cloud apps and operations running side-by-side with legacy systems will give some assurance to those that fear too dramatic a change. Also getting one teams systems operational in the cloud will create champions for the cause— and provide tangible proof that the cloud is not as scary as it might seem.

...taking your time and phasing your transition is likely a better approach in a cloud transition. Click To Tweet

Because much of the technology that runs the Cloud is based on virtualization, it is relatively straightforward to get developers and operators to get the necessary technology training and education in advance. This will go a long way to reducing uncertainty. Early training efforts should pay off in the form of a cloud competent technical staff that can further help refine cloud transition strategies, evaluate cloud software components and accelerate the cloud transition.

Build a Cloud DevOps Team on your Journey to the Cloud

At the end of your journey towards a cloud transition, success in building an integrated team to support the use and maintenance of the cloud will be just as important as having the right physical infrastructure and software in place. It will be the difference between a path littered with bodies, server chassis and shredded cabling and an efficiently functional cloud system that accelerates your business.

Building a team that understands what the cloud does for them and realizes that the services a cloud brings vary through the organization is critical. When people see the ultimate benefit to the company at large and to their daily responsibilities and concerns, short term challenges and hardships are easier to accept. Taking on the responsibility of educating all those involved in the reality of your planned cloud transition will go a long way in building that supportive team.

Kumulus Technologies provides a range of on demand, instructor led and customizable training courses for developers, infrastructure and systems operators, and business leaders.

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