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How to get your company to handle the cloud truth

As a technologist, I can get the cloud technology to work. Always. But the ability to change the culture to adapt to cloud technology is what’s hard, and, in some cases, impossible.

It’s important to understand your own culture and what changes need to be made around the adoption of cloud computing. A team of authors from IBM agree with me on this point. In their latest release, The Cloud Adoption Playbook, they say what many of us already knew:

Many companies adopt cloud computing to support innovation and rapid change. However, those companies may not understand the fundamental cultural changes needed to make this adoption work long-term.

I often think of Jack Nicholson from A Few Good Men, when he stated, “You can’t handle the truth!” Replace “truth” with “cloud,” and you have pretty much have the message these days to companies that are thinking well above their cultural capabilities.

The problem comes in when technologists like me are well versed in implementing a new technology, including cloud computing, but the culture fights us each step of the way. To make matters worse, technologists don’t understand how to change culture. Technologists need to learn this skill right now.

There are two basic approaches that seem to work best. In both cases, the bitter truth is that you can’t make the shift to cloud computing without changing the people responsible for making cloud computing a success. They need to learn how to “handle the cloud.” The real question is how do you get them there.

1. Build it and they will come

Although it’s the riskiest approach, it lets you prove success. Then people tend to line up behind it. An example is that your first 500 applications migrated into the cloud are cheaper to operate, more secure, and are much easier for employees and customers to access and use.

When successful, this approach means that you’ve proven cloud computing in the minds of those who lead the culture. It’s unlikely they’ll push back on that success; they may even change to take full credit.

The risk is that if you don’t succeed the first time, you can’t easily come back from that failure.

2. Work with a cultural change team to change the culture before using cloud computing

This approach is the most expensive, because you’re spending money on outside consultants, you’re adding a great deal of training, and you’re typically slowing down the implementation of cloud computing as the culture slowly changes.

The downside is cost, but the upside is that it’s always going to work—if you can control budgets and fire people. However, these are moves that the Global 2000 are typically unwilling to make, considering the cost and the pain.

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