The biggest obstacle to cloud is people

I can solve most business problems by using technology solutions, but I’ve always said that the hardest part is getting people and company culture behind the true value of the technology. Cloud computing is no different. 

Failed cloud projects rarely trace back to technology issues, such as the inability to scale or poor security solutions. Most failures happen when skills and culture don’t adapt quickly enough to effectively use a new technology, including cloud computing. 

According to a recent Harvard Business Review survey, 62% of IT executives said they have a difficult time keeping up with the rapidly evolving technology roles and responsibilities needed to deal with the increased pace of cloud adoption. Executives also cited the growing complexity that cloud computing brings, along with the enterprise’s inability to align the organization fast enough to adopt the mandatory new requirements and skills. 

Those of us who have experienced these growing pains have seen perfectly good solutions deployed, and then the organization takes a year or more to effectively leverage the solutions, and the cloud deployment ultimately fails. In some cases, parts of the cloud deployments are rolled back while the organization completes its required maturation.

What should those who are migrating to the cloud (or who are building net-new systems) do to change the organization fast enough to keep up with the evolution of the technology? 

Here are two solutions I often recommend, but they’re not so easy:

Make organizational transformation a priority. Many leaders assume that adapting to new technology will occur organically as the business adopts the technology.

This was possible in the past, given the speed that changes in technology occurred. However, global events such as the pandemic have accelerated the movement to many new technologies, including cloud computing. Indeed, the pace of cloud adoption has been so fast that many organizations have been left behind. 

If organizational change won’t occur organically, then it needs to be a well-funded priority. Transformation should work in sync with the rollout of any new technology. The process should include new operating models, reporting structures, and skills transformation that operate in lockstep with the adoption of the technologies. 

Drive new key performance indicators (KPIs). Unfortunately, most enterprises have yet to learn how to measure the effectiveness of cloud computing or even how to determine success or failure factors. It’s time to start using key metrics. 

Many define KPIs as technology-only concepts when it comes to measuring a business outcome. That should never be the case because KPIs should measure the organization’s ability to effectively leverage technology. KPIs are not a single dimension, as they’re often defined. This is important when it comes to organizational effectiveness. Effective KPIs measure how well technology and humans work together to drive a positive outcome. 

Redefine your KPIs to holistically measure the business by its effectiveness to leverage technology as a force multiplier. The result will be that your organization will more closely monitor technology deployments and identify and correct deficiencies more quickly.

Yes, this is hard. It’s certainly harder than just defining a technology solution. It’s time to prioritize organizational transformation and incorporate KPIs into new technology implementations. If we don’t figure this out soon, we won’t see a return on our cloud investments. 

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