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Is culture ‘clouding’ our vision?

Image: Adobe Stock / Connect world

Linda King, chief marketing officer at Brightsolid, examines whether it’s in fact people rather than processes acting as a roadblock to cloud adoption.

Cloud computing is on the up. Adoption continues to grow, with a recent Intel survey suggesting that 80% of IT spend will be devoted to cloud within the next 18 months. According to industry analysts Gartner, by 2020, 95% of organisations will be using cloud to support core business operations – moving beyond experimental and non-strategic use of cloud.

Yet, when considering cloud computing adoption, what’s the biggest obstacle businesses face? Is it ensuring the right technology and cloud solution is in place to achieve the company’s goals and vision? Or perhaps it’s getting the right processes and security in place to ensure a smooth transition?

When Gartner asked IT leaders that attended the 2017 Infrastructure, Operations and Data Centre Summit,What is the biggest obstacle to adopting cloud?’,the answer was clear yet surprising. The greatest barrier to cloud, according to these delegates, is people, as opposed to process, technology or information.

Over 44% experiencedcultural issues of some sort: resistance to change, absence of trust, lack of motivation, cloud confusion, and more. Over21% experienced people and skills related issues.This evidence creates a challenge. It clearly shows that there is not enough focus on the cultural and people element of cloud.

But why is this?

Cloud computing is often considered a technical and process-based change, as opposed to a culture change. Often decisions and transformation programmes around cloud computing are made and managed by leaders who are very technical in nature.

It’s the natural instinct and comfort zone of those with a deep technical background to start – and often end – transformation initiatives with the ‘how’ rather than the ‘why’ or the ‘what’. For example, ‘How do we leverage cloud computing to launch new apps?’, ‘How do we leverage cloud computing to enable our bimodal IT strategy?’

This clearly puts the cart before the horse, because the context, the need for transformation, and the reasons for implementing cloud computing are not thought through and communicated effectively. In this over-focus on ‘how’, the two most critical starting elements — the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ — are forgotten about.

To successfully address the cultural and people issues, IT leaders need to help the rest of the organisation understand why the migration is taking place. They need to explain the vision, including the justification and rationale behind any cloud-based transformation.

To overcome cultural barriers, it’s highly important that all stakeholders are on the same page regarding why this change is being instituted, and exactly what the transformation or initiative is before they need to know how to undertake it.

The ‘what’ creates the clarity which is so often missing in cloud transformation initiatives. Cloud computing might not be new, but it continues to be surrounded by confusion and misunderstanding. If a clear definition is not provided, it can result in confusion within teams, where various people define an initiative in different ways.

Simon Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’ can be used as a tool to communicate transformational cloud computing initiatives and motivate key stakeholders. Taking this approach and always starting with the ‘why’ can help leaders articulate clearly to everyone involved why working practices must change, followed by what they should change, and subsequently, how they should implement the change.

Cloud computing success very much depends on strong leadership, communication, and ultimately culture to succeed, and therefore these elements need to be considered at the start of a change project, not at the end.

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