What’s the cultural effect of moving to the cloud?

Posted on Aug 2020

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The biggest challenge of moving to the cloud is often cultural.

In my previous organisation I was heavily engaged in a cloud migration programme. The aspiration was that it would be a two year project. I know from people who still work there that it’s still in progress, and we’re well past the two years. I think the reality is that’s because it's such a significant organisational change. And people can be very resistant to change.

I was in a large financial services organisation where cloud was this big scary thing. It wasn't regulated, it would be a risk to your data, the reliability wouldn't be enough, the security wouldn't be enough, the skills required to get there weren’t there, because the people that had been employed were all employed around the traditional data centre centric services. And so you had to make such a significant change that you couldn't really see the wood for the trees. The business couldn’t work out how to get to the cloud. Cloud is not a technology change. It’s a complete organisational transformation.

How do you persuade the IT team?

One of the things to be careful about is the ethos that can be promoted about the cloud team. They can be seen as the strategic team, they're the future, and everything else is old fashioned and past it. This can fairly rapidly create quite a poisonous culture promoting the view that, unless you're working in the cloud migration programme, then what you're doing isn’t worth anything.

This attitude will feed upon itself and organisations need to be careful to ensure those that are not working on the cloud, and not everyone can work on the new shiny thing, have a clear career path. You need to make sure everyone is taken along on the cloud journey or there is a risk that those not directly involved may feel they’re going to be discarded.

I think that's the part where people can then become quite resistant to that change and can be quite vocal in what they think about the decisions that have been made about moving to the cloud in the first place. Businesses need to be careful with the messaging. People don’t respond well to being told that the processes and ways of working they are used to are slow and out of date.

How do you persuade users?

There’s an element of people liking what they know. If they need to get a job done, folk often default to the tools they are comfortable with rather than getting their mind in a place where they consciously change the way they do things. The second option means they will have a learning curve.

There’s a definite element of “I know how to make it work here and I know it’s a five minute job to do it within my ecosystem. But if I go over there, I'm gonna have to work out how to operate this thing.” And so a five minute job becomes a 30 minute job and it’s that investment in time that people can be reluctant to make.

The best way to encourage people to make the change is when it's a positive step for that person, versus something that they may feel is being inflicted on them. Everybody always wants to default to what is going to get that job done quicker for them.

Sometimes it just needs enough of a tipping point to push people onto another system. To say “Actually, that system isn’t good enough any more. There’s a better option over here.” The recent situation with the Corona Virus has been one of those tipping points.

How do you persuade the wider business?

Previously most companies have been very traditional. You had to come in, sit at your desk, where your desktop is and then, when you go home, you go home. At the beginning of lockdown a lot of companies will have gone through a significant learning curve to shift from that model to one where employees have laptops, or have some way of accessing things either from your work machine and your home machine.

A few years ago, one of my previous companies was actively trying to reduce the number of people with laptops because the cost of a laptop was so high compared to a small wise terminal. For example, if you think about a contact centre, which traditionally had a big physical footprint, that is quite a heavy push from a finance perspective. But what happens if you go to a meeting? What happens when you get on a plane? What happens when everyone needs to work from home?

How do you persuade stakeholders?

There will be a lot of people across the business who are interested in cloud adoption, all with very different priorities. It’s important to balance those off and make sure that no one group is the loudest voice because it might not be that what they're promoting is necessarily in the best interest of the overall company. And that's where the CIO especially, but also with the other C level staff in any organisation, need to find the balance point. It’s about making appropriate choices about cloud migration, but not damaging the core business by not getting the basics right, keeping the show on the road as far as the existing services which are still to be migrated to the cloud.

The culture has got to change, the mind set has got to change, and even things like the finance model, and the projects and programme model - those all have to adapt to accommodate cloud delivery as well as on prem delivery.

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