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6 Steps to Build Cloud Fluency in Your Organization The planning, strategy, and execution can pay dividends for your organization, as well as your employees' investment in your overall success.
By Maureen Lonergan
Cloud computing has introduced a significant shift in how technology is obtained, used, and managed. It's given organizations the ability to trade capital expense for variable expense, operate at massive economies of scale, make agile capacity decisions, increase organizational speed and agility, eliminate spend on data centers, and go global in minutes. No matter what industry or type of business you're in, cloud adoption requires that fundamental changes are discussed, considered, and supported across the entire organization — both within IT and non IT organizations.
But how do you catalyze an entire organization — specifically staff in non-IT roles — to embrace learning about the cloud and possibly even obtaining industry certifications in cloud technology? There is a clear and steep rise in demand for cloud skills, and it's not just within your organization's IT department.
From an infrastructure standpoint, synergizing your business with cloud technologies creates efficiencies across the organization, and reduces cost. But with all departments utilizing cloud applications, enabling your staff to share a foundational level of cloud knowledge, becomes a powerful business differentiator. As an advocate for, and someone who has developed education programs at a global scale for more than 20 years, I'm confident that cloud training will pay dividends for you and for your employees for many years to come.
Put more simply: Once all employees can speak the language of the cloud and can understand the capabilities of the cloud, they get from idea to execution much more quickly and collaboratively. No longer does a business unit need to wait for IT resources to be available to develop a new customer experience improvement. With firsthand knowledge of the cloud, your staff can be empowered to think bigger than ever before.
Building organizational buy in and enthusiasm.
Educating your organization on the cloud — from top to bottom, and unilaterally — is one of many best practices I've observed in enterprises that have implemented and executed successful cloud strategies. By doing this, you'll turn skeptical employees into organizational transformation champions, making a huge difference in how quickly your organization is able to leverage the cloud to deliver results.
Last year Kmart Group (Australia) committed to train 100 percent of its IT staff and 80 percent of its non-technical head office employees in AWS Cloud. In total, 1,400 employees from around Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, China, and India participated. Michael Fagan, Chief Technology Officer for Kmart Group, said the training program has helped overcome the language barriers that often exist between IT and the business, which ultimately helps get to decisions faster.
"Having our partners in marketing, in sourcing, in buying and in stores, have an understanding of technology and how it works, helps them to understand what we do, and have empathy for what we do," said Fagan. "We've actually found that it's easier to have quick conversations and we're not explaining the same things over and over again."
The steps to building cloud fluency.
There are six fundamental steps to successfully implement cloud fluency education and a culture of learning in your organization.
- Build your champions. Most organizations already have a wealth of institutional knowledge and cultural practices within its own walls, in tenured staff members. Activate these individuals to become champions for cloud adoption, and the learning culture you want to see within your organization. Nominate champions from across the organization, in diverse roles (not just managers or senior individuals), both IT and non-IT, invite their input, and give them permission to participate and lead.
- Vocal executive sponsorship. Change management is central to any new organizational program, large or small. It requires buy in from the most senior leaders, who lead the way in supporting organizational adjustments that will engender success for the cloud education program. It is also these leaders — and your champions from above — who will communicate to the organization the purpose and expected benefits of the change. Develop a clear communications plan that seeks to reach all levels of the organization with clear guidance about the cloud education program, how each employee will be involved, and how it will marry with their existing workloads. Initiate forums for feedback, questions, and open dialogue about what the program means to the business.
- Train your people. Next comes the training itself. Select a training partner that aligns with your technology infrastructure to maximize the short- and long-term impact of the knowledge. Assess the current skill level of your employees to best design learning paths by role and skill level in your organization. From there, your training partner, in collaboration with your cloud education champions, provide a mix of digital learning, formal training courses with live instruction, immersion days, and hands-on labs. Bringing your people along for the journey, by providing them with training and pathways for development will drive greater staff retention and satisfaction, as well as improve productivity and collaboration.
- Share knowledge. During the training process, it is important to reinforce the learning and create a culture of learning within your organization. Your training partners can teach you "how to cloud" but your staff will be in the best position to teach you how to cloud within your organization. Limit select pockets of knowledge and expertise by setting structured opportunities for people across the organization to share their expertise, experiments, learnings, code, best practices, and failures. Your champions can be the catalysts to set these opportunities up and drive participation. Inspire friendly competition for staff to prepare for, and take industry-recognized certification exams, can drive up excitement and lead to the formation of cross departmental study groups. Further, these industry certifications serve to validate your employees' skills, and increase confidence across the organization.
- Build and innovate. Put the knowledge to the test and have your teams roll up sleeves to become hands on with the cloud technology. Organize game days, hackathons, and digital innovator days. Ask your teams to build a website, create an API for some of your data, host a wiki, or build something else tangible that fits into what your teams already do. I've always felt the best education comes in the form of experience. Give your teams a hands-on opportunity to do something meaningful to your business with the cloud, and see what happens. These hands-on experiences might become game-changing innovations, or they may simply provide some education that your teams harness for their next projects.
- Celebrate and recognize. Investment in your peoples' knowledge and skills will benefit your entire organization, and surrounding communities — it's worth talking about! By creating a culture of learning, you are investing in your employees and giving them the opportunity to build their skills. Recognize and celebrate those who achieve mastery through industry certification, which will enhance your culture and encourage others to invest their time. It will also demonstrate to your organization that you support the building of a learning culture, you hire and invest in the best talent, and will encourage others in the market to come and work for your organization.
Now, I can appreciate that the above is a simplified version of what you'll want to undertake. However, the planning, strategy, and execution of a cloud fluency program will pay dividends for your organization, as well as your employees' investment in your organization's overall success.
Modern cloud-native development is here. The "why" is known; seek and implement the "how" to adopt cloud and train your workforce — both technical and non-technical—to innovate with the cloud.
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