IT chiefs need to consider ‘human cost’ of cloud migration journey

IT chiefs need to consider ‘human cost’ of cloud migration journey

Investigate cloud expertise; opportunity costs and change management

The human cost of cloud migration - and the power to effectively communicate with key stakeholders  - is getting overlooked as IT leaders are under intense pressure to lead business transformation and tasked with ‘people, process and technology’ decision-making.

“The human cost of cloud migration is something many people don’t think about,” Rackspace A/NZ senior director and general manager, Angus Dorney, told attendees during back-to-back breakfast events in Melbourne and Sydney about the challenges and opportunities in the cloud migration journey.

Dorney said the human cost of moving to the cloud includes tangible things like finding the right expertise (the internal cloud expertise); determining the opportunity costs (what will it cost the team to do the cloud migration themselves, a DIY versus an MSP); and examining the costs to the organisation around change management (the process and the way the team is structured).

Angus Dorney
Angus Dorney

Indeed, the critical first step in planning the move is securing buy-in from internal stakeholders, who may need help understanding the complexity and ‘human cost’ of managing a migration internally.

The event, ‘How to sell your cloud migration strategy to your biggest critics,’ uncovered ‘lessons learned’ of effective cloud migrations by guest speakers Airtasker CTO Paul Keen and Specsavers’ head of technical services, Julian Mcall, as well as explored the importance of understanding the ‘human cost’ of cloud migration and how to build a compelling business case.

Dorney said as he speaks to industry representatives and listens to the experiences of tech chiefs, people often miscommunicate the benefits of a cloud migration journey. In one particular conversation, he said the senior leader in the IT department of a multinational business claimed to “not care.”

Flabbergasted with that response, Dorney said he asked: “What do you mean you don’t care? How can you not care? This is a significant change for your business and the benefits and the capabilities that lie in this cloud migration can be transformational for your business.

“It is a transformational play for the business to help them scale, to help them with new capabilities. It gives them new levels of agility and flexibility - this is a really big deal. . . I think executives in Australia don’t understand enough around technology and cloud - and what it can do for their business.”

He said the problem lies with the fact many senior leaders don’t adequately communicate the benefits of the cloud migration strategy and transformation programs for the business. “We don’t adequately talk to other senior executives in the business around why we’re doing this, and what we can expect out of it.”

Indeed, communication is key in determining the human cost of the move to a cloud, Dorney explained, particularly when it comes to finding, hiring and retaining staff and dealing with the ‘cloud expertise’ equation.

“Cloud migration is absolutely a journey. It has been interesting to watch the chapters unfold here over the last few years. Australia was one of the first regions globally where the major cloud providers arrived in 2012/2013. And a few years later, it is absolutely true that cloud adoption and migration is a journey. Once you are there, it really doesn’t stop.”

Dorney said in his work he’s seeing “clinically bad management of cloud environments” on a day-to-day basis once organisations are actually there.

“Security is appalling. Cross-optimisation shocking. Governance is an issue. Ongoing optimisation of cloud environments is not something that once it’s done, it’s done. With the amount of technology and the speed and feature of product development that is available to organisations, you can't stand still. And there are new benefits coming out, new resources, new capabilities pretty much every day.”

Helping hand 

He urged CIOs and tech leaders to team with up partners to get guidance with best practices and ongoing management of the people, process and technology. Leaders need help with the different stages of migration including planning, discovery, design and build to migrate.

“In cloud migration, you need a guide,” he said, explaining it’s the same when you go scuba diving.

“When you go scuba diving, you go with an instructor. Why? Because they know what they’re doing. They don’t fall. They know best practices. They can help you with risk aversion and they can train you - and make you ready - for what happens when you pop your head under the water. Once you pop your head under the water, you don’t really know what you’re going to see.

“In many ways, cloud is the same. In joining with a partner that has done it before, has scale and expertise around those things, you can make that journey - and not just the migration journey a lot easier, faster and more cost-effective - but you can prepare for success on the other side, and of course the ongoing journey of optimisation, governance and security controls.”

Indeed, the decision to move business workloads and applications to the cloud impacts all parts of the business and isn’t a decision isolated to the IT team - therefore communication and collaboration is key, he noted.

Echoing Dorney’s comments about partnerships, Airtasker’s CTO Paul Keen - who’s formerly the CIO at Dick Smith, and held senior technical roles at RedBalloon, Westfield and ninemsn - said it’s imperative tech leaders have ongoing, in depth communication with the team - and strike up partnerships with cloud players right from the start to help with the planning and ongoing management.

Paul Keen
Paul Keen

Keen has done three cloud migrations for both traditional companies with stacks of legacy systems to the more disruptive, more agile companies.

“You need to partner. The whole build your house cliche is right. You need to get your foundations right in order to be able to actually build that house. You need to make sure you have your networking in order, that it is scalable, and have that planing available and determine what the future looks like," he said, encouraging CIOs to get the DevOps house in order. 

He urged CIOs to work with partners to determine the questions surrounding the Capex versus Opex business models, and questions of budget planning. “Work with partners to see what your budgeting is going to be like - and then double it.”

Meanwhile, Mcall of Specsavers said the company needed to work with a partner to move forward on its transformational journey on the infrastructure cloud front - and didn’t have the experience internally at the time to get the job done.

“We were the first region to put our foot into the cloud with our online appointment system, where we worked with Rackspace. What we found when we looked at this was we needed a 24/7 online application to manage the appointments. And our infrastructure and datacentre couldn’t support that ourselves. We didn’t have a 24 hour IT service and support network so we went out to cloud - and that’s how our journey started.”

He said a top challenge in his world is making sure senior leaders understand what the IT team is buying - and why it matters.

Julian Mcall
Julian Mcall

“Infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, software-as-a-service and now integration platform-as-a-service (iPaas) - your executives don’t understand and don’t know the technologies. They just want to know how much it’s going to cost them. And it’s often a very interesting conversation with finance people.”

CXOs share hindsights, insights

The breakfast events also revealed several key findings from Rackspace’s latest research that asked c-level executives (CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CIOs and CMOs) about their cloud migration journeys.

Over 200 c-suite executives shared their expectations and experiences during the cloud migration journey and openly revealed what they wished they’d known before launching down the cloud migration path.

Findings reveal 97 per cent of CXOs would have done something differently during their migration, while 40 per cent of CXOs said they weren’t satisfied with their cloud migration; and 47 per cent said their concerns were not communicated well.

Essentially, respondents were asked if they undertook a cloud migration again, what would they do differently.

Fifty four per cent said they would improve operational efficiencies, while 44 per cent said they would reduce the time and resources needed to manage IT.

Speaking to the overall concerns of the majority of people involved in the cloud migration journey, the majority - 70 per cent - said security and privacy are big concerns, while 39 per cent said loss of control to a third-party is also challenging.

IT performance and reliability; cost; finding the right partners; and business disruptions were other big challenges, the findings show.

Respondents also revealed how ‘communication’ is a very big issue at the board level when undertaking the cloud migration journey.

And while the benefits of the cloud migration are generally recognised by executives, about four in ten CXOs weren’t happy with several areas - with communication at the top of the list.

CXOs weren’t satisfied with the communication of chosen cloud capabilities prior to migration; adherence to project timelines; adherence to project budget; and cloud migration meeting the company’s objectives.

Findings also reveal 72 per cent of CXOs said at least one of the benefits of cloud migration was not well communicated.

Overall, while the CXOs understand the benefits, there’s a lack of awareness of what the cloud migration actually looks like.  

On the risk management front, the CXOs revealed their strategies are largely underdeveloped - with the majority - 71 per cent - of CXOs saying the company’s strategy to address risks wasn’t developed.

In the final analysis, the executives felt they lacked information, insight and expertise when making decisions.

Findings reveal 62 per cent said they’d wished they had obtained more information; 24 per cent said they wished they’d consulted with third-party experts; and 24 per cent said they wished they’d built a better business case.

In conclusion, the research suggests there are three key findings: namely, that migration sponsors or IT leaders are not setting and reinforcing internal expectations of a cloud migration successfully.

The last two findings reveal that c-suite expectations are being skewed by poor communication of risks and concerns; and getting communication wrong can have long-term consequences for IT leaders and their organisations.

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Tags optimisationrackspaceSpecsaverscloud migrationAirtaskerAngus Dorney

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