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Why cloud adoption requires an organisation-wide culture change

Written by Justin Augat, Vice President of Marketing at iland, an 11:11 Systems Company

In the space of a year, society has transformed beyond recognition because of COVID-19 and cloud-first for most organisations is now an imperative. To this point, by the end of 2021, 67% of all enterprise infrastructure will be cloud-based. But what does this mean for organisational culture, will it change – and should it change?  After all, now cloud adoption is greater than just the IT department. Whether it be a heavier reliance on the accounting team, closer collaboration with the business teams, or better information sharing with the internal IT team, cloud changes the dynamics of team interactions.

Today, an organisation’s existing culture can strongly predict the potential for cloud success; likewise cloud adoption does have the potential to also alter the company’s culture. It can dramatically change the day-to-day work of individual IT team members, but with the willingness to adjust employee skillsets, a wide range of opportunities can become available as a result of cloud.

Connectivity creates the user experience

The first and most subtle change is the impact cloud has on the user experience. At the outset, organisations need to determine what workloads and applications should go into the cloud and what should remain on premises, and the best ways to alleviate any connectivity concerns that the organisation might have. At the end of the day, applications and data are worthless if the business can’t access them.  Of course, connectivity is ultra-important in all parts of the application, but external access is critical, because the user experience is everything.

All too often, people tend to think of the cloud as this mystical wonderland and, in part, it is. But it’s still networking. And users still need to be able to connect to applications and have external customers be able to connect to data. Moving it to the cloud and not thinking about all the intricacies of how that application functions, is going to leave the organisation with some issues after adoption and this could have an impact on cloud success.

How a DevOps mentality will prove fruitful

Therefore, bringing together people from different sides of the business to try and understand what they have and what they intend to move is critical. For many this is where the culture change starts, because instead of working in silos, more departments will start to collaborate. Understanding what the business needs can be easier in on-premises environment, but organisations must make sure they know where their applications are and what their middleware teams, for example, are doing and above all who needs access.  For all these large-scale cloud adoption projects the business needs to undertake an assessment to understand their network and interdependencies, what workloads look like, and what this would map to in the cloud.

This is where those IT teams and organisations that have already started to adopt a DevOps mentality will see the benefits because, as I mentioned earlier, communication between different silos is critical and DevOps brings IT teams together.  Organisations need to bring teams together to understand what workloads and applications it has across business units and departments.  A successful cloud migration involves breaking down the walls that sometimes exist and building up that DevOps mentality.  As companies grow employees don’t necessarily all talk to each other, but now everyone from the networking team to the infrastructure team needs to be involved.

Understanding if the company is ready or not ready for cloud?

Company culture builds over time and sometimes this is accidental and sometimes it is purposeful, but it is normally meaningful to the employees who buy into the company values and mission.  Cloud has the potential to change the dynamics of how IT and the business operates and understandably the existing culture of the organisation can adversely affect the adoption of cloud and likewise the adoption of cloud can threaten the current company culture.

The change in culture also comes down to how the company intends to use the cloud and whether the company is ready or not ready for cloud. If the approach is one of just moving traditional apps and virtualising these in the cloud the company is not really changing that much in its adoption of the cloud.  Likewise, if the company views IT as a cost centre – then this is likely how they will approach a move to the cloud and look to minimise costs and any perceived risk.  The organisation will probably not get all the benefits that they could if they are too risk averse, they might lose opportunities in the marketplace.  Put simply, if IT is viewed as a necessary evil, this is not a good starting place.

Unfortunately, there are still IT people who look at cloud as a threat, even in 2021, and if they view cloud adoption with scepticism – there will likely be complications. Some IT staff might not be needed – there may not be enough projects to ensure that everyone’s role is 100% safe.  But in my opinion, there are tasks that IT should stop doing; so many IT departments are stuck in legacy activities.  If the organisation doesn’t place a premium on its team staying current and doesn’t have a culture of continuous learning and embed this from the top down, then IT teams will not upskill and will become stagnant.

IT viewed as a partner not a cost centre

But equally, there is a huge risk in not moving to the cloud and organisations need to think about that. Even if there are cultural challenges, companies must push through these so that IT is viewed as a partner and not a cost centre.   This involves adopting new ways of looking at and solving problems – understanding the effects decisions have on outcomes – and establishing how all the different teams can come together and see the bigger picture in order to move forward.  Everyone needs to consider the long-term needs of the organisation and not being near-sighted.  And remember that the role of IT doesn’t diminish as companies move to the cloud, so it makes both the business and the people more valuable in the long term.