Four ways to overcome resistance to cloud adoption

A cloud shape like an arrow head.
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Cloud computing initiatives enable organizations to achieve their digital business objectives, introducing technical and cultural changes that often require behavioral and mindset shifts in Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) teams.

About the author

Miguel Angel Borrega is a Research Director at Gartner.

The shifts required can often lead I&O team members toward resistance to the adoption of cloud, for reasons ranging from a misunderstanding of objectives and benefits to worries about diminished roles or job loss. As a result, I&O leaders are faced with questions from their team members about job security, potential irrelevance and what might happen if they’re unable to adapt to the new skills required.

Failure to address these concerns can undermine cloud initiatives and, ultimately, the organization's digital business ambitions and ability to compete with competitors. To address this, consider the following four ways to overcome resistance to cloud adoption.

1. Create an understanding of your cloud strategy

An organization's cloud strategy provides an overview of how it will use, consume, manage, and operate cloud services. Without this, the organization is unable to effectively communicate to staff the goals and benefits of cloud. However, more than one-third of organizations start their cloud journey without a clear cloud strategy and another third of them with cloud migration plans misaligned to business goals.

To help staff better understand the goals and benefits of their cloud initiative, outline the benefits of cloud computing with the organization's wider business objectives and explain how the organization will provision, integrate, and manage services from different cloud providers.

Outlining the principles and decision criteria that the organization will follow to consume IaaS, PaaS or SaaS services will better communicate the processes and help define the organizational structure. Separately, explain the management approach for the cloud platforms and how these will be managed by either the I&O team or by a managed service provider (MSP).

2. Focus communications on existing skills and personal growth

With the cloud strategy in place, I&O leaders can communicate details of the strategy, including the reasons, vision, and execution plans, to executives, management peers and I&O team members to mitigate potential cloud resistance in their organization.

To streamline communications, highlight to I&O team members what will change and what will stay the same through the adoption process. In addition, communicate how cloud adoption will reinforce the skills they already have and accelerate their personal growth.

Identifying how cloud adoption will impact team members’ roles and activities as well as communicating key messages about context, rationale, and objectives of the shift to cloud is also key. To round off communication, collect team members’ feedback to adjust the communication plan and alleviate their key concerns as each team member evolves around the strategy.

3. Collaborate with team members on shaping their roles

A major factor in resistance to change is the feeling among teams that the changes, and the adjustments they make, are being imposed on them and that their voices are not considered. To maximize adoption, follow an open-source change approach by involving team members in a two-way dialogue about the changes due to cloud adoption.

This means co-creating a gap analysis of team members’ technical skills and the skills required in the mid to long term. Separately, identify volunteers for cloud projects and provide access to informational and training opportunities, including cloud conferences, demos, and workshops from cloud providers to alleviate their concerns.

Motivating I&O team members to participate in and lead cloud communities of practices will also put leaders in good stead. Additionally, co-develop cloud training plans that are both valuable for the organization and attractive to the individual.

4. Leverage first followers as influencers

One often-ignored aspect of change is that individuals change at different speeds. The process of change in any group of people resembles a long-distance race. I&O team members’ attitudes for change often move through different stages: awareness, understanding, adoption and sustained commitment. As a result, I&O leaders must manage I&O team members according to their attitude toward cloud adoption.

For those runners, or ‘first followers’, they will be on board and want to be involved from the beginning. Whereas joggers, or ‘follow the leaders’, will look to first followers, as they are highly influenced by them. Walkers on the other hand will ‘wait and see’ and will follow once others do. For those ‘resisters’ in your organization, they will think it is not worth the effort to change. However, some of them can be influenced to embrace change.

Spend most of your time working with ‘runners’ because they are the ones who will inspire the rest of the team. Runners will become motivators to joggers, and joggers will therein inspire walkers. Ultimately, the success of cloud change initiatives in an I&O team depends on a handful of influential individuals who can address sceptics’ concerns and so it’s key to focus your efforts on the leaders.

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Miguel Angel Borrega is a Research Director at Gartner.