Cloud Computing: 4 Ways To Overcome IT Resistance

Guest author Kyle Falkenhagen is director of product management at ServiceMesh.

Business and IT leaders are bombarded with cloud computing hype and promotion. Yet very little is said about how the cloud affects the evolution of the IT organization itself. Enterprise cloud adoption is a transformative shift where the greatest implementation challenges are often more about people and process than technology integration.

Agents of change, especially in large enterprises, must overcome various forms of resistance. This includes organizational fiefdoms and the IT silos that evolved with them. These four organizational change strategies can help IT departments fight fear and inertia as they move to cloud computing:

IT Change Strategy #1: Use Tiger Teams To Break Down IT Fiefdoms

While no one is shocked that IT silos can hinder cloud adoption, you may be surprised how quickly you’ll encounter resistance. For example, setting up IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) offerings for your first private cloud will likely involve separate groups responsible for storage, computing, networking, platforms and security. Coordination among these groups is already difficult and you'll quickly find that many cloud vendors have product interoperability issues that cause documentation gaps, integration problems and incompatibilities. Teams will have to escalate issues through multiple vendors, causing long delays and strains between IT fiefdoms not accustomed to relying on each other.

The key is for siloed groups to share activities across traditional boundaries. To encourage this, leading companies have created Tiger Teams: small cross-functional groups of skilled, respected and entrepreneurial-minded workers. They should be experienced enough to navigate their home departments to accomplish needed tasks, politically astute enough to marshal resources and enterprising enough to push projects to completion. And they need a strong sponsor who can provide political cover and help break through entrenched resistance.

IT Change Strategy #2: SWAT Away “Analysis Paralysis”

One large financial institution implemented a cloud strategy with an incumbent vendor that claimed to offer the right strategy and products. The firm waited too long for proof points and had vastly disappointing results. When it tried to bring in other cloud vendors, they merely added confusion to the existing failed effort - leading to analysis paralysis and the inability to decide on the proper next steps.

Unfortunately, this scenario is being played out in many large enterprises. If you can’t afford a year of paralysis, create a SWAT team.

Smaller and more discreet than a Tiger Team, a SWAT team is quietly let loose to “get something done.” It emerges only when it has a concrete working model to integrate with the IT ecosystem for evaluation. Because it runs “small, fast and dark,” a SWAT team can be easier to initiate than a Tiger Team. A SWAT team’s goal is to break the paralysis and create a tangible model that everyone can improve. Building a SWAT team is relatively cost effective, especially compared to the opportunity cost of spending a year just trying to decide what to do.

IT Change Strategy #3: Challenge Legacy Obstinacy

Many organizations cling stubbornly to legacy applications and platforms, often including proprietary applications running on no longer supported platforms. While some groups may propose porting those applications to a modern, standardized, platform and as-a-Service offering, legacy zealots may claim that's too risky.

But there are many different techniques for cloud migration, including some require little to no re-architecture efforts. One size does not fit all when it comes to migrating applications to the cloud.

That's critical, because the benefits of eliminating non-standard platforms and infrastructure in favor of lower cost, cloud-based service offerings are too important to ignore. Because cloud computing promises automated processes that lower costs and speed cycle times for application provisioning, maintenance, patching and updating, cloud-based IT service costs will almost certainly decrease over time. Legacy system costs, meanwhile, typically continue to creep up. Many times, simply running numbers can help overcome emotional objections to changing the legacy status quo.

IT Change Strategy #4: Challenge Habitual Inefficiency

Most organizations existing IT processes and governance approaches are the result of years of layering of systems, technologies and process exceptions. Today’s cloud initiatives present a significant new opportunity to improve process automation and implement new governance best practices. That will likely breed resistance based on the idea of, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” Don't buy it. The process has likely been broken for years.

Part of the resistance is political, as people within the IT organization understandably worry about positions being eliminated or particular fiefdoms losing prestige and power. The misperception may also exist that automation is fraught with risk.

But the real risk lies in not doing anything.

While some positions may in fact be eliminated and other roles may change with a move to the cloud, this is far better than the alternative. Sub-optimal IT efficiency can lead to lower enterprise productivity, a loss of competitiveness, lower profits and ultimately the risk of wholesale outsourcing of IT operations.

Successful Organizational Change Management

Addressing organizational change is vital to ensure the success of enterprise cloud-computing initiatives. By incorporating the right approach and building strong arguments to overcome resistance, you can help your organization make the changes necessary for successful implementation of enterprise cloud strategies.