The cloud computing roadblocks that have nothing to do with IT

An analyst with 451 Research provides details from a recent study that show where technology professionals are struggling with the move to hosted infrastructure

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Cloud computing requires sophisticated virtualization software, failsafe network connections and numerous other complicated technologies. But if anything halts a company’s cloud journey, technology isn’t typically the problem—employees are.

In its ongoing examination of the cloud-computing market, 451 Research has found that technology-related barriers have become less of a concern for organizations considering cloud systems. Rather, bottlenecks not specifically associated with technology, such as outdated business processes, stubborn corporate culture and a lack of cloud expertise, are what stand in the way.

451 Research director Peter ffoulkes explains that for a few years now, his firm has been looking into the factors that can stymie cloud implementations—and the researchers see a trend. Simply put, “the IT roadblocks are decreasing and the non-IT roadblocks are increasing,” he says.

In an October 2013 survey of IT decision makers at midsized and large organizations, 71 percent of respondents told 451 Research that non-IT obstacles hampered their cloud projects, up from 68 percent in an earlier survey. Out of those respondents who said non-IT roadblocks are problems:

  • 37 percent experienced resistance to change,
  • 19 percent had trouble with vendor selection and cost models,
  • 18 percent said their organizations lacked the staff required to implement cloud systems, and
  • 15 percent pointed to budgets and organizational issues.

No wonder non-IT roadblocks are a growing problem. “Technology changes fast. People don’t,” ffoulkes points out. Even though virtualization, networking and security systems have improved since the cloud concept arrived just a few years ago, the human side of the equation—the need for new business processes, for example—hasn’t shifted nearly as quickly.

Brains hate change

In a story for Forbes.com, business consultant Andrea Simon partially explains why it’s so difficult to change those human elements. People develop habits that enable them to process information efficiently. Altering behaviours is unpleasant, so people avoid change.

Simon presents a few recommendations for businesses that want to overcome this resistance. She says companies should examine processes in different industries, explore new market segments and encourage employees to exchange ideas. These activities get people thinking in new ways, which helps spool up innovation and generate profitable activity.

But when it comes to cloud computing, meatware resistance is just one problem, judging from 451 Research’s findings. Training, regulations and vendor relations also play roles.

These are substantial concerns that organizations can’t address overnight. So, ffoulkes says, businesses should move to the cloud slowly and deliberately. He recalls one CIO who successfully implemented a cloud system not as a single, sweeping initiative but through small upgrades, step-by-step over five years.

“If you change a little bit rather than everything at once, people have an easier time accepting it,” ffoulkes says.

Technology usually outpaces the mechanisms people develop to manage and make use of it, so non-IT roadblocks will probably always hinder cloud implementations somewhat. But by breaking the process down into small steps, technology managers may find that the human component is less of a hindrance than it would be otherwise.

photo credit: Nebojsa Mladjenovic via photopin cc

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