Recently I’ve run into numerous problems getting some staff to engage with cloud adoption projects, I’m frequently brought in to consult or work as a cloud architect and I need to engage with these staff. Thinking back, this has actually happened for quite a number of years and while it’s not as prevalent as it used to be, I’ve found myself trying to sell the cloud not to customers, but to the engineers, consultants and internal IT staff who seem to think it would do them out of a job or reduce their ownership and power in their own environments. To be honest, I don’t think cloud would do any of these guys out of work, in fact I saw it building their importance to the business and need for their skills. Sure, rack and stack and some hardware specialised guys would hurt initially but these are by far the minority and with their experience they would have a far deeper understanding of the cloud that most.
So out of the conversation I thought it was worth discussing the skills that I talked about with both these individuals and their management, I think these are key to the adoption and successful implementation of private, hybrid or public cloud infrastructures. Having the right people at the right time is a key goal for most managers and businesses, however I don’t believe that cloud skill sets are unto their own, and building existing staff and their skills will give you a stronger employee and longer term engagement. I’ve also found staff that I’ve invested time and effort in have been more loyal and steadfast.
The Cloud is an interesting beast and everything I’ve seen comes down to a few key areas that critical to build or maintain both you and your employee’s skills in.
Design and Architecture
Any cloud architecture project must be design and architected correctly, we are seeing more and more business’s come and ask how to get out of or manage their sprawling, uncontrolled and out of hand cloud adoption. When 4 different departments go to different cloud providers, swipe their credit card and start to do stuff it’s a recipe for disaster. I.T. needs to get in front of the business and talk about cloud services and what they mean and what they can and can’t do. Get involved with and build engage business stake holders who might need cloud, don’t let them go out and ask others, make them want to come to you and talk to you. This allows you to direct and control cloud adoption. This allows you to be closely involved in the design and architecture of a cloud solution in your organisation and not be told 6 months down the track that your contracts department has been using a cloud storage provider to host files and a webserver and its offline for some reason.
Backup / Recovery / High Availability / Resiliency / Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity Planning
Ok, this area is a big bucket and I could have split it out, however in general no business can run successfully if they don’t have their services available. What this means is that staff need to be completely across what offering their cloud provider has around meeting their needs for backup, HA, DR and BCP. When you boil down a cloud environment it is still Compute, RAM and Storage sitting in a Data Center connected to the internet somewhere in the world. They can still have power outages, link failures, hardware failure, flood, fire and other natural disasters strike. Keep across what is available from the provider and ask the questions, how do you backup up our data, where do you store it, how accessible is it, how to we get it during a Disaster, What are your SLA’s for recovery, What is the RPO and RTO of this service? etc, etc.
While I’ve seen cloud providers offer solutions with almost zero automation, the best cloud providers not only offer automation it’s built into the very core of their offering. Cloud is all about Self Service, Self-Provisioning and the trust that when you ask for another virtual machine, extra CPU’s, more RAM, or try and expand a HDD it will just work. Encourage your staff to build their awareness and understanding of these tools and systems and encourage them to build into their daily tasks review and automation of repetitive and mundane tasks. Why do something manually when you can automate it? And when dealing with the cloud automation is key, get across it early and as completely as possible.
Security / User Access Control / Compliance / Auditing
Security and Compliance questions are probably up there with the most common and easily the most complex questions that I’ve had in regards to the cloud. Everything from are we allowed to do something, to what happens if data is lost or in a lot of cases more importantly compromised. The cloud is based off systems that are built on platforms designed (and sometimes not designed) for multi tenancy, this means that as a customer of a cloud service you are sharing you CPU, RAM, Storage, Network and virtualisation platform with hundreds and possibly thousands of other customers of the cloud providers. If something goes wrong and there is a breach of security or just human error, your data or someone else’s data could end up being accessible or impacted both others. Knowing how to respond to these events is a key skill.
Cross functional / Inter silo / cross divisional
Cloud engagements require interaction and communication between the IT Silos’ of responsibility to a level rarely seen before, normally a server administrator couldn’t add new disk, CPU or network without engaging and working with the Storage, Virtualisation or Network areas of the IT department. This can cause challenges in almost any organisation, having a person or group who specialises in engaging the disparate areas and working both with the established or new processes and within the change management process is critical to success.
There are so many areas for your staff to skill up in or to take on a new responsibilities, it should be seen as a good thing and an advancement. When it is weighed against the loss of managing and owning the infrastructure or a particular area it should be something that can advance and improve, this is something that really can be managed with your staff both proactively and positively.
I hope this helps and shows that there is a huge amount of complexity in adopting the cloud and managing your staff and their experience and expectations from the whole endeavour.