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How to overcome the common blockers to cloud adoption

Now that most organisations are on some form of cloud journey, the advantages of running workflows and applications in the cloud are pretty widely known. However, business and technology leaders who are looking to take the next step and push for wider adoption of the cloud will know well the objections often raised from other parts of their organisation.

To prevent these concerns leading to business and technical paralysis, it’s essential for today’s leadership teams to be able to make informed judgements about these objections: Which of them have merit? Which of them can be overcome?

To help you navigate this path, we’ve outlined some of the common concerns we hear in customer organisations. We then explore the ways in which you can overcome them.

Aversion to risk

Fundamentally, there’s a very human aspect to many of the common objections to cloud adoption: aversion to risk. Concerns typically centre around loss of control, or increased levels of uncertainty in the workload being deployed in the cloud. When software is on-premise, the IT department naturally has control over almost every aspect of it. Running in the cloud means handing responsibility to an organisation that won’t have the same understanding of your processes as the in-house team.

The aversion to risk can be built-in too: particularly in larger decentralised businesses and public sector bodies, there will be individuals responsible for identifying risks and protecting the organisation against them. Because of the repercussions they could face if they permit something that later negatively impacts the organisation, these individuals are naturally very risk-averse.

 “We don’t support that technology”

Another frequent push-back is that technology isn’t supported by the organisation, and therefore can’t be used. This occasionally applies to the cloud in general, but more common is a mandate that only a pre-approved strategic cloud platform can be used, or that only certain services within that cloud are authorised for use. There can be different reasons for such policies. It may be the organisation doesn’t have the expertise to look after a workload using the service in question. Leveraging it would require team retraining or outsourcing. For busy IT departments, there may be limited appetite for this additional short-term workload.

A need to validate new technology before it can be used is another potential blocker: securing verification that a cloud service meets security, performance and other requirements can take time, particularly if it isn’t considered a strategic priority.

“Our legal team says ‘no’”

Objections from the legal team are also common and typically fall into two categories. Firstly, there are concerns around certain uses of the cloud violating regulatory requirements. Secondly, customer contracts may specify that data must be stored in a certain location. This may stem from client demands, or simply be a relic of long-established ways of working that are now outdated. Whatever the reason for the restriction, moving to the cloud is likely to require contractual changes, and there’s often a reticence to do this. This may be down to the time it can take, money it can cost, or simply a desire not to rock the boat or risk opening cans of worms by involving customers’ legal teams.

Overcoming these challenges

While the above challenges may be different in nature, the solution to all of them is firstly to secure buy-in and accountability for the use of cloud at the highest level of the organisation. Decisions over when, where and how to use the cloud can have strategic implications for the business. The final choice, therefore, needs to be made by leaders who can provide a mandate to cloud advocates and those whose jobs are to protect against risk.

Next, there needs to be a strategic articulation of the vision for what cloud will enable, to set the scene for why the nature of certain roles will need to change.

Evolve team roles

With ultimate responsibility and accountability for strategic cloud-related decisions moving to the management, the roles of those in favour of cloud use, and those concerned about its risks, need to evolve.

Both groups must become trusted advisors to the management. Those pushing for the use of cloud need to explain the benefits. And those concerned about risk must help decision-makers fully understand the potential drawbacks. For the latter group, make clear that if the management goes ahead with cloud adoption and a risk that they identify subsequently materialises, this won’t have repercussions for them. Removing this threat helps ensure those teams give an honest assessment of the nature and probability of a risk, rather than erring too far on the side of caution.

Empower the IT function to embrace cloud

If the reticence is coming from the technology team, those at management level need to empower it to properly embrace the cloud. If skills shortages are the issue, provide the budget and time to upskill. Reassure the team that the business understands there will be bumps in the road as they get to grips with new technologies, and showcase where short-term increases in workload will be offset in the longer term by the benefits of using the cloud, such as reductions in infrastructure maintenance. If the need to validate the suitability of new cloud capabilities is the bottleneck, take steps to unblock it, by providing additional resources to support those responsible.

Tackle legal obstacles

Where a regulation or piece of legislation is given as the reason for not using the cloud, analyse the details. Does it really prohibit the proposed use of the cloud? If so, investigate whether the workflow can be architected or configured so you can use the cloud while remaining compliant.

If a reticence to change customer contracts is an issue, the solution is likely to be a cost-benefit analysis involving your legal team. This will determine whether the expected benefits of changing the contracts outweigh the costs of the process. If they do, the next step will involve working with customer legal teams to secure the changes. This should involve a carefully crafted communications program, to articulate the benefits that using the cloud will unlock for that customer.

Striking a balance

The cloud can be such an important enabler of organisational success that key decisions around its use need to reside at the very top level. Those in management positions need to be empowered to make good decisions, by understanding both the benefits and the risks of using the cloud. This ensures the organisation is neither beholden to cloud cheerleaders, nor held back unnecessarily by risk-aversion in people simply doing their jobs. Getting the balance right will release the shackles holding back cloud adoption, enabling the organisation to remain competitive and get ahead.

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