R ecently, I climbed on stage to moderate a panel discussion on “infrastructure vs. cloud” at the Technology in Government conference in Canberra, Australia. My panelists ranged from first-line government IT managers to heavy hitters like Barbara Cohn, the first chief data officer of New York state.

Government agencies in Australia, like those just about everywhere, are struggling to understand how to best leverage cloud technology to streamline operations and better serve their citizen-customers. As in the United States, an Aussie government “cloud-first” mandate is forcing IT leadership to act.

Keep in mind here that “move to the cloud” doesn’t mean “outsource everything to a faceless megacorporation and fire your IT staff.” The Australian government has adopted the definition of cloud computing defined by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology in NIST Special Publication 800-145, which includes public, private, and hybrid approaches. The cloud is really more about how you provision resources and design applications than where the hardware lives.

Technologists and engineers (like me) can have endless abstract intellectual debates about architectures, migration strategies, application design, and all the other bits-and-bytes stuff related to moving services and applications to the cloud. But as an IT or business leader trying to herd the cats, technology is only one factor—maybe not even the main one—that will determine your success or failure.

Transitioning to a cloud model of IT is a massive change that will spark organizational angst. It is natural for people to wonder where they will fit, if they can develop the needed skills, or if they will lose their job. If not addressed, this angst can be a real drag on the organization. If you’ve ever been part of a team where everyone is focused on reaching the same goal, you know it’s a wonderful, positive place to be, and a lot of progress can happen quickly. We probably all know the feeling of being on a team where some or most members are resistant to change and stuck on the status quo. That’s not so fun. It’s inefficient and can severely slow progress.

When I posed a question to the panel on this topic, I said something about how “people fear change.” I was corrected by Ole Nielsen, deputy chief digital officer for the Australian Capital Territory. Ole said “People don’t fear change, they feel loss—loss of status, loss of income, loss of relevance, things like these.” To drive home his point, he looked at the audience and asked “How many of you fear winning the lottery?” I didn’t see any hands go up.

The big challenge for IT leadership is to get everyone on board and moving in the same direction. To overcome the fear of loss, you have to paint a picture of the future that is positive (yet honest), and you have to make it personally relevant to every member of the team. Help individuals understand the opportunities the changes present for them. Get them excited about learning new things, spending their time on higher-value tasks, and so on. Articulate and demonstrate a commitment to helping people retool themselves as needed.

This is easier said than done, of course. But addressing challenges like these is the essence of leadership.  You won’t be successful in a transition of this magnitude if your people are resistant or fearful. Go ahead and have those debates about technology and strategy—those are good and necessary. But if you want to reach cloud nirvana, don’t forget that people are the key ingredient—just like Soylent Green.

Quantum has the tools to help you understand, manage, and protect your data across traditional infrastructure, public, and private clouds. Give us a shout, and we’ll show you how we do it.

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