June 29, 2012
CloudU Notebooks is a weekly blog series that explores topics from the CloudU certificate program in bite sized chunks, written by me, Ben Kepes, curator of CloudU. How-tos, interviews with industry giants and the occasional opinion piece are what you can expect to find. If that’s your cup of tea, you can subscribe here.
Closing out my series looking and some tips and tricks for organizations making the move to the cloud — arguably leaving the most important for last — I’m going to write about the internal issues that need to be taken into consideration. First a bit of context around this – my perspective is that cloud isn’t really about technology, or technological innovation. rather it packages together some technology that already existed (multi-tenancy, virtualization, the interwebs) and delivers it in new and unusual ways (utility, self service, democratize). If you accept this contention (and more on that in a later post) then it’s not a major leap to see that some of the biggest impacts of a move to the cloud lie in the non-technological sphere – employees, management, processes and policies.
It’s an area that I spend a lot of time talking with organizations about – often times these organizations omit to think about the human impacts of cloud, and from time to time that can result in some unintended, and negative, consequences from a move. So what things do organizations need to think about in this move?
Planning For Shifting IT Responsibilities
The face of corporate IT changes dramatically with a move to the cloud – no longer do people need to spend time racking and stacking servers, patching software and other low level tasks – the fact is that in the long run individual organizations will not have email server administrators, desktop software support personnel or systems administrators. While that is a good thing (no more focus on stuff that isn’t really core to the business) the fact is there are some people who are going to feel threatened by the changing paradigm. This move means there are lots of opportunities for IT staffers – but some people like the status quo and don’t want to change.
Organizations need to be proactive – look at professional development and training (hey, I can suggest a good place to start!).
While cloud computing certainly limits the opportunities for some skills, it offers up some new ones in the areas of cloud management, application customization and agile development and personnel should be encouraged to explore these new and exciting areas.
The Lack Of Formal Qualifications
In the traditional IT world there are a host of qualifications (both vendor centric and neutral) that people can challenge in order to prove their technical credentials. At this stage there is a dearth of these sorts of opportunities in the cloud industry – that’s one of the reasons I first came up with the CloudU concept – a chance for IT and business staff to at least prove they have a grounding in the cloud industry. Over time there will be much more done in the way of both general industry and product specific training – but in the mean time organizations need to invest in bringing their people up to speed – often leaning on vendors to run some in-house training is a good start down this path.
Dealing With Objections
Sad but true – with cloud computing, as in any move to something new within an organization, there will always be a hardy band of practitioners who oppose a move to the cloud for no other reason than their own feelings of being threatened. It’s another example where good management practice comes into play and IT managers need to look at the underlying reasons for the negativity and objections and deal with them at their root cause level.
In the instance of technical objections there is a growing body of work that answers practitioners’ concerns in these areas – engage with communities of interest, do thorough due diligence and have concrete answers to technical criticisms of the cloud. Meanwhile when the issues are simply that the practitioner is reluctant to change, it’s time to engage with HR practitioners who can aid in bringing the staff member around.
Cloud introduces some real human challenges – but by way of context, so too did the move from the horse and cart to the motorcar, and the move from rooms full of accounting clerks to automated accounting processes. Change and progress aren’t always easy, but if they’re beneficial, the pain is worth it. Managers need to work through the issues, identify the route causes and find ways of turning people around. The future is coming fast – there’s little point in trying to avoid it.