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Cloud pros need to master office politics

It’s 9:00 Monday morning, and you arrive at the office for your first week of hybrid work to learn that your cloud application has been shut down by the security team. You later find out that the security team leader did not feel respected enough during the development process and went to the CIO and got your stuff shuttered until he or she could issue approval. It caused a three-week delay in launching a needed cloud-based system.

A normal response to this situation would be anger, but you likely made mistakes here. Clearly, there was some requirement or policy that you needed approval from the security team, but you chose not to get it. Of course, the security team knows nothing about cloud-based systems and security, so you figured they would be no help. Maybe that’s true. However, the end result is wasted time and money negatively impacting the business.

Unfair to you? Perhaps, but that really does not matter. People setting up cloud-based platforms and running cloud-based applications often attempt to circumvent office politics. The result is usually the same: Others in the organization push back and screw up your cloud computing plans.

To understand the effects of organizational politics and cloud computing progress, let’s look at some fundamental issues:

Control and ownership. Cloud computing can challenge traditional power structures within an organization. The IT department may feel threatened by cloud services because they may reduce IT’s control over the organization’s technology infrastructure. Similarly, business units may seek to adopt cloud services without consulting IT, leading to conflicts over control and ownership of technology resources. This is about 70% to 80% of the issues that I’m seeing out there (see the example I started with).

Adoption and resistance. The adoption of cloud services can create tension between early adopters and those who are resistant to change. Early adopters may feel frustrated by the resistance of others, while those who are resistant may feel excluded from decision-making processes and overwhelmed by the pace of change.

The fix here is education and empathy. I’m often in the middle between factions that both feel threatened by the pace of cloud adoption. One group believes that it’s too fast; the other believes it’s too slow. Both sides need to hear each other out and adapt a pace that seems reasonable—and more importantly, that returns the most value back to the business.

Integration and compatibility. Cloud services may not be compatible with existing IT systems, leading to conflicts over integration and data exchange. IT departments may feel pressured to adopt cloud services without sufficient consideration of their impact on existing systems.

It often takes way longer than it should, but it’s important to consider interfaces carefully and work with system owners, even for systems built in the 70s and 80s. Also, the owners understand those systems better than you do, so it’s a good idea to bring them into the fold early.

Security and privacy. Cloud services can raise concerns about security and privacy, particularly in industries that store sensitive data. Employees may be worried about the security of their personal data, while IT departments may be stressed about the security of company data stored in the cloud.

Of course, cloud-based security has been better than traditional security for some time now. But that’s not the perception, and you’re dealing with perceptions, not realities. You must be empathetic. If people are worried about data existing outside of their physical control, they need to understand why this is okay, and how cloud makes things more secure. But do so in a friendly and non-condescending way.

This one is near and dear to my heart, considering that I’ve made huge mistakes in dealing with people over the years as we adopted new technologies. My approach was to blow by everyone, accomplish my objectives quickly, and ignore any pushback. After all, “I’m the guy who wrote books on this stuff, not you.” Not the right approach, but I was young.

This resulted in negative reactions that could have been avoided if I paid just a bit of attention to the feelings of others. I learned quickly to make people part of any cloud deployment plan, and it’s gone smoothly ever since. You need to consider people’s feelings as much as you consider the technology you’re employing.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.


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