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Not just for IT: These 5 non-technical roles need to speak cloud

Jun 08, 2023 • 7 Minute Read

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Cloud computing is hard enough for enterprises – even without the friction of legacy controls & processes that can grind the flywheel of innovation to a screeching halt.

The good news is that technology organizations are starting to focus their attention on updating data center practices and upskilling talent to overcome these obstacles.

The bad news? The business is getting left behind ­­– and the growing cloud IQ gap is slowing the pace of digital transformations for many enterprises and eroding the ROI of their public cloud strategies.

As you move forward on your cloud journey, don’t overlook the importance and value of business teams, as well as IT, becoming literate in cloud computing and developing cloud skills. Cloud is a strategic lever that requires a significant shift in how an enterprise operates – including the business.

To get started, my recommendation is to focus on increasing the cloud fluency of 5 specific business roles which are often overlooked – but are critical to greasing the flywheel of innovation.

Finance Teams

The economics of cloud computing is a massive paradigm shift as enterprises transition from capital expenditures (CapEx) to operational expenditures (OpEx). The two distinct approaches have different implications for cost management and control – especially with the pay-as-you-go pricing model of public cloud providers.

For members of the finance team, it’s important they understand the value of cloud computing beyond the total cost of ownership (TCO) calculations tied to the initial business case. To get the most out of the investment, enterprises must take a disciplined approach to managing, optimizing, and predicting cloud costs – while balancing the need for agility. Too much focus on punitive cost controls without consideration for the flow of innovation will stifle momentum.

chart - compute hourly spend

Compliance Teams

The responsibility of organizations to adhere to regulations like HIPAA while certifying controls against security and data protection, such as PCI DSS, still exists with cloud computing – but the governance tools for auditing and managing these risks are radically different.

Similarly to managing the financials of cloud computing, it is vital to strike the right balance between controls and innovation. Without properly understanding the modern mechanisms and tools for auditing the ephemeral nature of cloud infrastructure, your governance and compliance practices will be an anchor on your organization’s digital transformation efforts.

And the only way to pull up that anchor is through education. John McDonald is the Global Head of Cloud Governance, Risk & Compliance Strategy for Financials at Amazon Web Services. He calls cloud education "a critical element in any company's cloud adoption strategy", especially for the risk and compliance departments he fondly terms 'The Department of Nervousness.'

"For regulated industries," McDonald says, "it is even more important that my risk and compliance brothers and sisters develop a baseline understanding of how any cloud provider technology works. This is especially true for those folks in the 2nd and 3rd lines of defense, operational risk management and internal audit. These roles must develop an understanding of the taxonomy of the cloud so they can have the appropriate conversations with the 1st lines of defense in order to effectively perform their jobs."

But, McDonald adds, the need for understanding of cloud goes even higher, empowering Chief Audit Officers, Chief Risk Officers, and Heads of Regulatory Affairs to develop "a solid understanding of both the technology and the risks the cloud brings so they can address their own responsibilities. This knowledge will help them act as advocates for the cloud as they align with the company’s overall strategy."

As more organizations leverage cloud computing, there is a much greater need to reduce the friction from accessing the ecosystem of partner solutions and services. Unfortunately, the current procurement process within many enterprises is where innovation goes to die.  

The emerging marketplaces offered by AWS and Microsoft Azure are now home to a massive digital catalog of software listing from independent software vendors (ISVs) such as A Cloud Guru that make it easy to find, test, buy, and deploy software with click-through purchasing in a matter of hours versus months. Procurement teams can be leveraging these new practices as a strategic advantage to increase the velocity of digital transformations while simplifying the internal buying experience.  

To make it even easier for legal, AWS now provides standard contracts and enterprise agreements that can save organizations a significant amount of time on back-and-forth legal negotiations. That’s a far cry from spending months trying to redline antiquated agreements written in the 1990’s which still contain clauses about reviewing legacy data centers practices.

Human Resources

The ability for an organization to attract and retain talent with cloud computing skills is a massive differentiator. In order to effectively compete, it is essential that HR teams can make the connection between the business goals of cloud computing and the individuals and organizational structure required to make it happen.

Many organizations will waste months during the early stages of their cloud transformation journey trying to define the new roles and levels required to support the cloud computing program – without having much of a clue about the basics or fundamental.

Establishing a basic level of cloud literacy within the HR teams provides a lot of clarity on how roles could be structured, the skills required when evaluating candidates for a new position, and career paths for transitioning existing employees to new roles. One of the greatest contributions an HR team can make to the cloud transformation journey is unleashing the talent that already exists within the organization.

Sales Teams

For many companies, their product and services are now built on cloud providers like AWS which enables scale and speed to market. When speaking with customers, it’s vital that the sales team has a strong understanding of the underlying cloud services they are built upon – otherwise the lack of credibility with customers can translate into the lack of sales revenue.

As more customers become fluent with the benefits of cloud computing and better informed on the services, a sales team with a high cloud IQ can make a big difference. The ability to converse with a customer on the latest trends in cloud computing can position your team as a trusted advisor who can more directly connect their needs with relevant solutions.

“Having that technical know-how and being able to advance conversations with customers about their underlying infrastructure — it’s invaluable,” explains Alana Fitts, Director of Sales Strategy at CloudCheckr. “If you’re not pursuing a base level of foundational certifications, you’re not serious. It’s that simple.”

And AWS's John McDonald concludes, "In order to accelerate the cloud learning curve, it is critical that a company develops a comprehensive training program using a cloud skills development solution."

At the very least, these business roles should understand basic cloud computing “as a service” concepts related to data center virtualization, shared security, and pay-as-you-go pricing. Does the business need to know how to launch a virtual server or implement access control? No – although that certainly wouldn’t hurt!

Ready to see cloud learning in action?

CloudCheckr used ACG to level up their entire sales staff on AWS in just 90 days. See how they did it.