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“I told the new CTO that this cloud stuff was BS. He came charging in with this ‘cloud first policy’ and look what happened. Previously rock solid systems that had worked for years slowed down and had outages as we tried to run them on the cloud. I doubt that the fantasy business case he came up with will ever be validated. We got guys who have been with us forever heading for the exits. I even thought they were planning on getting rid of me. I heard his new lieutenants calling me a ‘server hugger’. Now, I’ll bet he is the one getting the boot.”

That’s an ugly but unfortunately surprisingly common scenario. How does it arise? Many managers and executives consider the Cloud a technology issue. It may look like it at first glance but in reality it is so, so much more.  How do you avoid negative outcomes when adopting cloud? Well, you could just not use the cloud. And, despite what surveys say about its cloud’s widespread take-up, many actually do just that.

Unfortunately, that is a bit like trying to command the tides to not come in. The economics and benefits are just too powerful. So what do you then do? Why not consider following the “Four C’s”? When dealing with Cloud you must always keep in mind that it represents a Culture disruption. These can lead to Clashes (like our narrator tells above) and therefore must be introduced through careful Change Management.

Culture can be one of those management consultant buzzwords. It is a powerful and important concept but let’s keep it simple. Here is a nice definition of culture:

  • The beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time
  • A particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.
  • A way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)

Your organization’s IT department has a very unique culture. Many, or even most IT shops, inside commerce; government and academia are built on old stuff and managed by old paradigms. That’s not to say there are not cutting edge CIO’s and CTO’s trying to make a difference but 80% of their efforts are devoted to just keeping the legacy stuff up and running. They can barely respond to new needs. The other challenge is that IT is pretty people intensive. Up to 40% of annual budgets are for people and related expenses. Bottom line: your IT culture has a lot of legacy and a lot of people.

Moving to the cloud, whether Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and/or Software as a Service (SaaS) can be threatening since it represents a pretty significant break with how things have been done. Sure, IT shops have outsourced their assets and operations in the past but that was really a “your mess for less” tactic. Cloud adoption represents a new paradigm in the people, processes and organization of how IT solutions are built and delivered to users.

Think about it. With cloud, a lot of the work that used to take place is just gone. In IaaS, nobody runs around managing or fixing servers.  In SaaS, nobody does application upgrades. And the tempo is really accelerated. Instead of months to spec, order and deploy equipment – you do it in minutes. And when it comes to release cycles what may have been quarterly majors and maybe monthly minors – it is now daily, some are even several times a day.

This looks pretty scary if you are not some hot shot just out of school. Who is going to need you? Sure, you can work on the legacy stuff, at least that will be around for a while – won’t it? Or, you can up grade your skills – especially if you want to keep your job. Just check out AT&T. Either you master the new reality or you will not be part of it. Just how long before your role is in the cross hairs.

Feel threatened? I would. Now you understand why disrupting culture – the old ways of doing things – leads to potential resistance and even clashes. Fear is a powerful motivation. Before you go adopting cloud be smart. Do some change management planning. Maybe get some help. Step back and consider the culture where you will introduce it and plan.

There are lots of change management processes you can utilize. Quite frankly, you’ll probably use a blend of them. But, like those great exercise machines you can buy on TV, if you don’t use them faithfully all the good things they promise will not come about. Your goal is for your folks to understand the change, feel they will be treated fairly, and finally come to the ah-ha! moment where they think – could this be an opportunity for me?

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