Strong Culture Is Central to Cloud Migration

Stewart Smith

Archive article - published on April 01 2021

Change is uncomfortable. As humans, we will resist change even when there is a better way of doing things. To prove the point, ask anyone that has recently tried to help a primary school child with long division about their experience. Their response will likely be filled with exasperation and contempt. Despite "new math" being a more efficient and more practical method of solving division problems, those of us schooled in "old math" will reject the notion of using conventions like the "big seven strategy," multiplication towers, and drawing pictures to solve the problem. Our cognitive bias makes us cling to the old ways of doing things as long as we get the desired result.

For most of us, resistance to change is pervasive and will scale with the magnitude of the change. We adjust more easily to relatively minor changes like adopting a new coffee supplier in the company break. More significant changes like a cloud migration of enterprise applications and workloads can be significantly more uncomfortable for individuals and the organization at large.

Common Culture Pitfalls of Cloud Migration

Cloud migration, like lift and shift, means making a significant change to a company's technology approach. Working in the Cloud carries the reality that systems, devices, and humans will all interact differently. While this is most certainly for the better, the digital transformation requires a critical cultural adjustment to achieve success.

From a technological perspective, there are layers of intricacy to cloud migration. Discovery, design, implementation, testing, and roll-out are the broad strokes. Since a technology change ultimately affects its human end users, there also considerations surrounding communication, training, and developing a cloud-enabled culture. Too often, morale and trust are impacted by an organization's lack of investment in educating employees and building the right culture. No employee wants to feel stunted post-migration because they can longer access a business-critical system, for instance. Furthermore, no manager wants to hear the grumblings of staff that are non-believers in the new environment.

In a Deloitte podcast entitled, "The road to cloud success starts with a change in culture," American business executive and writer Kevin L. Jackson sums up the importance of culture, "Changing policies, changing methodologies, really looking at metrics and using them with your operational processes is important. Culture is key, and changing culture is hard. Humans don't like change."


Fortunately, there are ways to instill good culture. Mainly, this involves using good business practice and avoiding these four pitfalls:

  • Not taking into consideration how a move to the Cloud will affect employees
  • Exempting leadership from embracing and using the technology
  • Failing to communicate early and often about the changes
  • Ignoring questions and concerns that arise regardless of the source

Creating Cloud Culture

Several years ago, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced it would change its cloud computing policy. The goal of the revised guideline was to facilitate greater inter-organizational cooperation. The core of the D.O.D.'s project was defined by infrastructure changes and creating a Joint Information Environment (J.I.E.). Within this construct, leaders from the various military divisions would be able to exchange ideas and information. Fortunately, the then-acting C.I.O. for the D.O.D., Terry Halvorsen, understood the cultural change required for such an undertaking. His years of military experience had prepared him for this.

Halvorsen knew that technology was one consideration. Changing people's thoughts about cloud computing was the other—and probably more intensive. Telling agencies accustomed to holding information close to the vest that openness is the new norm was not an easy task. Cultural change through communication, education, and leadership was imperative.

In A Practical Guide to Cloud Migration, sponsored by Google and published by O'Reilly, author Kieran Broadfoot explains the methods for successfully executing a cloud migration. He states, "A true digital transformation begins with a cultural transformation. As an organization's culture changes, the internal processes and underlying technology will change accordingly since technology is ultimately the external manifestation of an established internal culture." Broadfoot says that this cultural change is three-pronged, hinging on leadership, monitoring, and training. Ensuring that all management embraces the changes, inspecting what you expect, and indoctrinating all employees with the new culture are keys to success.

Keep the momentum

It's possible to achieve a cloud transformation while keeping your momentum and keeping your team "on board." To do so, you need to pay careful attention to your company culture. But, that requires nothing more than good managerial practice. Of course, working with an expert in cloud migration can help.

WALT Labs is an expert in helping organizations of all sizes move to the Cloud. Its proprietary approach emphasizes meeting the business's needs by using the best in Google Cloud practices, ensuring an excellent cultural transition. Contact one of our experts today for a no-charge, no-obligation consultation and to learn more about how we can help you manage your new cloud culture.

Stewart Smith
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