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Don't Forget Employees In Your Cloud Calculations

Organizations have to make many technological and financial calculations when considering adopting public cloud services: which applications to put into the cloud, what provider to choose, how to determine ROI. But companies that overlook employee buy-in in their calculations may find that it's a significant hurdle to successful adoption. Workplace change is difficult for many people to adapt to, whether it's a reorganization, moving into a new line of business, being acquired, or changing the brand of coffee in the break room. Moving from an on-premise IT infrastructure to a cloud service is just one more example, says Mike Pearl, a partner at consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Employees want to know what the move will mean for the business as a whole, and now the company will get there, says Pearl. The transition to cloud computing involves "changing the mindset of individuals who do one thing today and are going to have to do another thing tomorrow," he says. Or have nothing to do. Some of the resistance to cloud computing comes from internal IT staff who worry that if they maintain the servers and now the company is accessing the cloud provider's servers, they could be out of a job.

This concern may be misplaced. Internal IT staff still has an important role to play at large enterprises even as they move to the cloud, particularly around governance. "If everybody went all [cloud] and there was no governance model in place, all you've done is split your internal IT organization into a series of IT organizations that reside outside of your wall," says Pearl. Each department may contract with a different cloud provider or for different applications depend on what work it does. "The greater the consumption of cloud computing ... the greater the need for a governance model that's going to allow you not to [create] silos that just extend outside of your IT organization," Pearl notes.

As for SMB customers, it's likely that very few IT professionals will have to worry about their jobs, as that market segment is more inclined to embrace cloud computing because it doesn't have the in-house IT staff to manage their own infrastructure, says Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst at IDC.

But beyond the IT department, accomplishing change management involves convincing employees of the benefits of cloud computing. Cloud computing makes it easier for a company to innovate, deliver new services to its customers or target new markets because each new venture does not need to be considered based on how many servers, software licenses or other infrastructure the company has to buy. In addition, Pearl says the consequences of a failed cloud initiative aren't as great because a company doesn't have to invest significant resources into a cloud-based deployment. This factor may encourage companies to be more willing to take the risk in the first place.