In a recent article on Infoworld, David Linthicum asked the question, "Why do cloud projects fail?" The answer he came up with is often "resistance from your colleagues." While there are many technical challenges that can become barriers such as vendor lock in, security, and compliance, cloud project stakeholders are often blindsided by another set of barriers that they don't expect, internal resistance. There are lots of changes that must take place when an organization moves to the cloud. Changes in software, changes in service, changes in escalation, the list goes on. The scope of these changes, coupled with an organization's existing culture, can create internal resistance to cloud adoption that is difficult to overcome. The issues surrounding internal resistance must be carefully, and thoughtfully, managed to ensure they don’t stop cloud projects before they start. In this article we’ll lay out some common problems, and some solutions for managing your organization’s culture to facilitate cloud adoption.
IT Staff May Push Back
People are often resistant to change, and for IT staff the shift to the cloud is seismic. Servers, applications, and data will no longer be on premises. As stated in a CIO Online article, IT staff "become service brokers rather than operators of their own tangible IT assets." That's a big change, and it comes with, at the very least, the perception of loss of control. In fact, with cloud monitoring, management, and security tools, administrators may have more control than ever. However, the fact that service provider resources will have their hands on virtual servers to patch, reboot, and apply other updates creates the perception of lost control. In public cloud scenarios, multi-tenant access can further that perception
In addition to that adjustment, IT staff will need new skills. These range from learning the user interfaces, APIs, and scripts of cloud service providers, to managing cloud vendors to make sure service level agreement obligations are met, to monitoring and optimizing cloud solutions using vendor and third-party tools. These skills go beyond what has traditionally been expected of IT staff. There will be a learning curve, and IT staff will have to step out of their comfort zone. Some IT staff may like their new job requirements, while others may feel they are being replaced by the cloud.
IT Managers May Be Uncomfortable
IT managers and CIOs may resist the cloud for entirely different reasons. Managers may feel that they know how to solve problems in their current environment. They can replace a server, recover data from a backup, add capacity to that database, and so on. Moving to cloud services may move them out of their comfort zone. Some industry experts are predicting cloud services will greatly diminish the responsibilities and position of the CIO. Naturally, this can create resistance.
Shadow IT May Put Up Roadblocks
What is shadow IT? Shadow IT services are departments that have individuals, often called power users, department IT helpers, or someone else who provides critical IT or application support to the department. They may work closely with regular IT staff or be nearly independent. In some cases these shadow IT staff are the only real IT experts for specific systems, applications or integrations critical to a department's operations. Departments put shadow IT staff in place to gain more control over critical systems, or to get more responsive IT support. They won't want to give these things up for a move to the cloud without assurances that they can get similar access and service once services and applications are moved to the cloud. Again, any issues like this in an organization must be identified, and addressed thoughtfully.
Moving to the cloud will be a shift, not only for technologies and IT staff, but also for all employees in the organization who will access and use cloud-based solutions. While you can make the argument that employees shouldn't care where their IT services and applications come from, they often do. They are used to, knowledgeable with, and even may like the their current applications, and how they access systems and data. Some of that will likely change when services, data, and applications are moved to the cloud. Again, those issues need to be identified, and thoughtfully examined and messaged.
Barriers can Turn Into Roadblocks
As David Linthicum said in his article, resistance can manifest itself in many different ways:
"People demand that you get their approval and then don’t show up to meetings. Budget dollars are removed that were initially earmarked for the cloud. And, my favorite, some people go to company leadership to scare them to death about the imaginary threats that cloud computing will bring. The resistance is often pretty passive aggressive."
The result? Cloud projects may be delayed at many different points, may have scope and budget reduced, or may be stopped altogether.
Beyond that, failure to address internal IT resistance, and old IT habits can result in implementations that don't take full advantage of the automation available in the cloud. In a Network Computing video, Joe Emison, CTO of BuildFax, points out that many organizations create problems for themselves by not appropriately identifying a move to the cloud as something that requires a full rethink of long standing IT and development processes and procedures. The desire to keep system provisioning, application deployment, and maintenance "hands on" reduces efficiency. It can hamper some of the main advantages of cloud deployments such as rapid elasticity.
The Solution? Training and Preparation
Communication is certainly key throughout the life of any cloud project, from conception, to pilot, to proof of concept, to implementation. But what do you communicate, and how do you communicate it? Cloud project leaders will have to communicate with C-Level executives, subordinate IT staff, key department heads, and employees. Each of these groups requires a different communication approach. On top of that the cloud team will have to provide updates to all employees as cloud projects move into implementation and deployment. While we're asking questions, who should be on the cloud project team to give cloud projects the best chance for overcoming both technical and cultural challenges at an organization?
David Linthicum stated it in his article:
"A lack of understanding is at the root of the insecurity some people experience, and the (passive) aggression that results. A bit of knowledge will soften up the people who are on the fence about cloud computing. Once that happens, things will go a lot smoother because you'll have the crowd's momentum on your side."
CloudMASTER cloud computing classes provide a comprehensive, in-depth, vendor neutral environment that explains critical technological, and cultural barriers to cloud implementation. It also provides hands-on migration planning, management, and automation activities throughout the three courses. Specifically, the Cloud Architect Course dives deep into designing a cloud architecture to meet organization requirements. It also explains the skills, and personalities that make up an effective cloud team. It details the causes behind these cultural barriers and provides strategies for addressing them. Beyond that, the course devotes an entire lesson to presenting a cloud project plan. This lesson covers how to structure your argument, back it up with data, and how to communicate it to executives, peers, key stakeholders, and other staff. CloudMASTER includes this training because it's critical to successfully implementing cloud projects. Anyone who takes this course, and the other CloudMASTER classes will be well equipped to overcome the cultural barriers outlined in this article.
CarverTC provides CloudMASTER Cloud computing training in Portland Oregon and around the United States.