Sunday, June 5, 2011

Who's Holding Cloud Back? IT!

Fear, uncertainty and doubt; also known as FUD. If it were up to me we'd change the name of IT to FUD because modern technology organizations are more about telling you what you can't do and why than figuring out how to do what's needed and doing it. FUD-IT. Hmmm...have to remember that one.

Today we face a talent crisis in Cloud Computing that it appears almost nobody has been preparing for over the past five years. Go try to hire a cloud experienced anything. Better yet, go hire a cloud experienced Enterprise Architect, Strategist, or Program Manager. You'll have an easier time replacing your C-suite. The talent is already employed and most companies are anchoring their talent to the ground with impressive golden hand-cuffs. Most popular right now are option grants which seem to run anywhere from $50k/yr to $100k/yr for top talent. And there are cash bonuses which are paid over time to entice people to stay, salary increases, the works. Hopefully my employer catches on...

For the past several months I've been blaming poor management by CIO's and their HR counterparts for not forecasting the need and establishing internal training and development programs to "grow your own". Although I'm not changing that position I realized after a few conversations just how formidable a problem such a plan would have to overcome. Developing cloud talent requires three key ingredients:
  1. Willingness to learn
  2. Desire to be broadly experienced rather than a specialist
  3. Investment
  4. Appetite for risk

Ooops, guess that's four ingredients. CIO's can be held accountable for the bottom two, but number 1 is squarely on the shoulders of the IT staff. Too many, I'll forecast the majority, of IT people today either don't have, have lost, or never had a willingness and desire to learn. They learn out of necessity, not desire, and as a result the majority have large blind spots. For some reason they resent the pace of technical innovation and the need to keep abreast. Perhaps some believe that you have to "relearn everything" every four years and figure what's the point (note: you don't have to relearn everything unless you stay a technician your whole life, for everyone else you realize the more things change the more they stay the same).

People are quick to give lip service when asked about being trained in cloud. We get several people who sign-up for lunch-and-learn sessions and attend 1hr presentations. However the number, more importantly the percentage who have stepped up and said "Hey, I want to learn about cloud" is so dismally small that when I ask HR they reply "Eh? No, nobody's asking about training". Talking with friends and colleagues we estimate about 2-3% of the IT staff have demonstrated, not talked about but executed on, a desire to learn about cloud computing. My favorite reason people give when we've asked why they aren't doing it on their own? Not enough time. Hmmm. Okay. Perhaps they don't realize that Detroit didn't have enough time to learn about economical cars, or Pittsburgh about producing low cost steel, or Las Vegas about the peril of building more homes than there are purchasers. I'll put a dallop of blame on IT and HR for not encouraging the training, in fact making it mandatory in some way, and financing part of it through paying for courses or giving people time or both.

When it comes to item two I see it as a 70/30 split with 70% on the shoulders of IT staff who want to specialize and 30% on IT/HR leadership for encouraging specialization for the past decade. I love when I talk to companies about their biggest problems in IT and they go on about changing technologies, business people who "don't get it", etc. yet when I ask them about their process for finding the root cause of an issue it invariably involves a team of 25 people. Why? Because everyone is a specialist so there's nobody who gets it from end to end. And of course it takes forever to find the actual problem because they all speak different languages. It's a problem the size of the Tower of Babel but one easily swept under the rug because it's only visible to IT.

So we have an under-educated group of technology consumers (can't call them practitioners until they've done it successfully several times) all scurrying around either telling everyone how lousy cloud is or trying to implement it without any help. What drives their thoughts? FUD. It's not just the naysayers; they're only the most obvious. Fear is the gensis of private clouds. Uncertainty keeps public companies from researching public cloud storage. And doubt keeps companies from applying cloud to production systems.

People filled with FUD need to remember this axoim: Lead, follow, or get out of the way!

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