The human side of cloud migration

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The organization must change around the use of cloud computing. This is a fact that most won’t dispute. How it changes, and what changes, is where the conflict begins.

Keep in mind that we’re not simply replacing on-premises servers with virtual ones in the cloud. We’re replacing and retooling people. This means disrupting lives, and, in some instances, making others the victims of our own mistakes if we make the wrong calls.

In every other cloud project that I’ve done in the past 10 years, I’ve faced reorganization challenges, skill set challenges, and procedure challenges—all people related. In other words, they wanted a new cloud-enabled organization to be defined, along with the skills required, and what those people needed to do during the day. I view this as the single most important and scary task when moving to cloud computing.

Approaches to changing the organization vary from company to company, but the common process is:

  • Do a current skills inventory, including who’s doing what and with what skills.
  • Define the future technology inventory, such as public cloud leverages, security, governance, and so on.
  • Define the gap in skills between the current and the future.
  • Make a plan to upgrade skills over time, including reorganizations, restructures, releasing, training, and hiring.

At issue is that companies that seem to be good at cloud enablement are not good at helping humans change skills over time. Indeed, those who have been running systems for 20 years in the data center may have to retrain or lose their jobs; those are realities companies would rather not face. Moreover, you’ll need to add new skills that cost a lot more then you think. If you put together an aggressive training program, setting rather ambitious objectives, some won’t meet the new expectations. Utter disruption.

Change is hard for most people, and the change that needs to occur around disruptive technology such as cloud computing is game changing. However, upgrading the technology without upgrading the skills mix will fail.