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7 most common cloud computing adoption mistakes

Discover the 7 most common mistakes in cloud computing adoption like focusing on migrations and neglecting talent transformation. Learn to achieve cloud success.

Jul 18, 2023 • 11 Minute Read

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Agility, efficiency, innovation, staying ahead of the competition—we all know the spiel. The benefits of cloud are as massive as they are well known. Organizations get it. The cloud may not be a magical money-printing machine, but if you were trying to manufacture money-printing machines, you’d be foolish not to use the cloud. 

With 94% of enterprises reporting using cloud today, it’s less about selling your organization on the value of cloud and more about figuring out how to realize that value. The secret is no secret at all. Execution and strategy are key to success. Obvious? Sure, but nearly three-fourths of companies report not capturing the cloud benefits they expected. 

What can you do to ensure you’re among those organizations that achieve cloud liftoff?

  1. Focus on migrations, not long-term goals 

  2. Assume size is an advantage

  3. Treat cloud as an add-on

  4. Neglect the Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE)

  5. Invest in tools, not people

  6. Fail to define success

  7. Think of talent transformation as a one-time event

1. Focus on migrations, not long-term goals

Too many leaders prioritized short-term migration goals during their initial cloud transformation push instead of planning for long-term organizational outcomes. And yet, many leaders are still surprised their cloud solutions aren’t performing as they’d hoped. In fact, 27% of leaders report they aren’t able to drive customer value from their cloud solutions. 

When your goal is migration over reliability, scalability, or any other cloud computing benefit, you run the risk of not seeing any benefits. But when you start with a long-term mindset, you’re more likely to see long-term benefits. Take Capital One, for example.

Capital One: Long-term cloud strategies paid off

Capital One was one of the first traditional enterprises to go all-in with a public cloud computing strategy back in 2014. Jump to 2020, and the organization closed its eight on-premises data centers, migrating completely to the cloud.

“Many companies approach the cloud by trying to solve easy problems first,” said George Brady, then CTO of Capital One. “We turned that on its head by deciding to solve the hardest problems first. We didn’t want to be in the position of trying to convince stakeholders of the value of the cloud without being able to first assure them that we could responsibly deploy and run any of our applications there.”

The results? The organization brought application development in-house, switched from waterfall to Agile software development to remove siloes, recorded 70% better disaster recovery time in tests, reduced transaction errors and incident resolution time by 50%, and shortened development build time from three months to minutes.

Chris Nims, Executive Vice President of Capital One, told AWS, “We knew that we were embarking on a massive transformation. Success required that we have, first, a vision of where we were going; second, the courage to make a bold move; and third, the tenacity and perseverance to make it though.”

2. Assume size is an advantage

No industry is immune from disruption. And cloud computing is one of the most disruptive forces organizations have ever seen. It didn’t affect one industry or region. It democratized computing and leveled the playing field between industry giants and brand-new startups. More than that, it put some large, well-established organizations at a disadvantage. 

One of the major benefits of cloud is its adaptability. And in this world, size can easily trip up an organization against competitors that are nimble and adaptable. Or, as Malcolm Gladwell put it, the qualities that “make a company so formidable—its size, its resources—serve as stumbling blocks when they’re forced to respond to a situation where the rules are changing.”

Said another way: Agility beats size. That’s why nearly all organizations are turning to cloud computing. But achieving this agility requires an (at times) uncomfortable acceleration. The speed of change is the hardest part of cloud transformations for many larger organizations. 

Instead of diving in feet first, too many leaders are stuck in a tire-kicking limbo with the cloud. They’re testing it on small scales for far too long to prove its merit rather than committing to the new operating model. While there may be a time and place for caution, spending too long in this limbo means you’re likely not maximizing your cloud investment.

“While your mileage may vary a lot, there is an unavoidable upfront investment,” says David Linthicum, Chief Cloud Strategy Officer at Deloitte Consulting. “The more workloads you move, the more ROI you get from that investment.”

Moving fast means more quickly realizing those big cloud benefits, while lingering too long can lead to negative ROI for your cloud initiatives.

3. Treat cloud as an add-on

For enterprises looking to move away from the old ways to do new things, the solution isn’t “the way we did things before plus the cloud.” There needs to be buy-in on escaping the day-to-day routines and expectations and an investment in people.

Companies that go all-in on cloud—treating cloud as foundational, not supplemental—see the biggest benefits. But only half of organizations are using cloud computing to develop new ideas, approaches, and methodologies. Instead, they’re rapidly acquiring cloud services they may not be ready for. 

To avoid feeling like you’re changing the tires while driving, cloud leaders should identify a vision for cloud computing and how it adds value to their organization. 

Pressure to stick with the status quo causes many enterprises to struggle to gain the momentum and speed required to avoid being devoured by the fast and hungry. The way out is to adopt a new approach, where continuous innovation is the new bottom line and speed is the name of the game. For that, you’ll need a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE).

4. Neglect the Cloud Center of Excellence

For any enterprise serious about the transition to a new operating model, a CCoE is the tip of the spear. But 71% of enterprises struggle to create and maintain a centralized cloud team.

As Mark Schwartz, Enterprise Strategist at Amazon Web Services, said, “It is tempting to think of a CCoE as just a team of experts who can be consulted for their knowledge of operating in the cloud. But . . . it can be the driver of change across the enterprise, the focal point for transformation that is broad as well as deep—the Archimedean lever that moves the world, or at least the enterprise.”

A CCoE doesn’t just provide a single-source of truth for cloud in your organization. It also directly impacts the bottom line. Dow Jones is a prime example for how.

Dow Jones: CCoE improved customer experience and bottom-line growth

Milin Patel, Principal Architect and Co-Founder of Rearc, used this approach with his team as the former Head of DevOps for Dow Jones to help the 137-year-old news media organization shift to cloud and “stay relevant and cater to constantly changing customer demand.”

“From my perspective, the goal of a Center of Excellence team is to take a large, widespread, deep-rooted organizational problem and solve it in a smaller scope with an open-minded approach, and then leverage the small wins to scale it across the organization,” he said.

Stephen Orban, Milin’s CIO at Dow Jones at the time (and current VP of Migrations at Google Cloud) said those small wins jumpstarted company-wide transformation. 

“We started with small projects, and used the results to showcase how we could successfully execute an increasing number of projects using the same model,” said Stephen. “Slowly but surely, we began to deliver more features and improve our time-to-market in the process. What used to be Tuesday and Thursday release nights, where things often went wrong, eventually turned into developers releasing dozens of changes throughout the course of each week.”

The result? Dow Jones launched several new web and mobile products, improved the user experience and performance of their products, grew their digital subscription base, and entered new markets with confidence.

5. Invest in tools, not people

Talent transformation is one of the biggest hurdles for organizations to overcome when moving to the cloud, but it’s the single most important part of the transition. For the majority of organizations, cloud transformation is talent transformation. And hiring isn’t necessarily an easy fix.

“Most organizations already have a wealth of institutional knowledge and cultural practices that are well established in tenured staff members,” said Stephen. “This can be used to the organization’s advantage if the existing staff is given an opportunity to learn how to marry institutional knowledge and culture with cloud technologies. In other words, everyone you need to move forward with the cloud is already there, you just have to enable them.”

To solve for this, organizations from Amazon to the U.S. Air Force to JPMorgan are investing in training and reskilling existing employees. And it’s not only one small team who needs to learn about the cloud. An agile mindset and cloud fluency are needed across the organization to become a lean enterprise with a startup-style approach to problems and solutions.

Achieving a critical mass of cloud fluency is the best way to ensure an organization can sustain a transition to a new way of operating. Scientists say that when just 10% of randomly distributed committed agents hold an unshakable belief, the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed. 

Widespread cloud fluency lets all your teams speak the same language, even teams that might be considered nontechnical. Your people should understand how the portions of the business they touch—be it finance, sales, or marketing—play into the bigger cloud picture. Get to the 10% point fast, and the momentum will carry you forward.

6. Fail to define and measure success

You can’t just expect to pick a training platform or consulting firm, wait a few months, and assume learning happened and transformation is underway.  Successful cloud adopters define what success looks like, what constitutes a win, and understand the end goal—and make it all part of the transformation strategy. 

Part of that means aligning your talent transformation objectives with organization objectives, and then breaking each objective into a learning journey for your team. This structure helps you identify skills gaps you currently have and plan for the skills you’ll need in the future. From there, it’s all about tracking progress. 

Tracking progress in grade school is simple: Take a test and get a grade. While there isn’t such a simple single metric to determine if your organization is on the cloud honor roll or in need of some tutoring, there are a few things to keep an eye on while keeping tabs on your cloud culture.

One way to measure skill progression is with certifications. You could use the total number of certified employees with a minimum goal of 10% enterprise-wide to reach that tipping point. Another way to measure progression is through learning platforms that offer progress tools or dashboards. You could also measure skill progression at an organizational level by tracking the percentage of workloads running in the cloud or the change in time-to-value.

7. Limit cloud talent transformation to a one-time event

Cloud education is key to talent transformation, which is key to a cloud transformation. A session or two of on-site training isn’t enough. Sending out links to your teams and hoping they watch the courses isn’t enough. Offering reimbursement for certifications isn’t enough. 

Talent transformation is an ongoing process with many parts. And it’s integral to a successful cloud transformation launch and maintaining the cloud systems once they’re live. Leaders should remain involved in training before, during, and after a cloud transformation to iterate on what works and what doesn’t, and teams should be empowered to develop their skills and keep them honed. 

The driver of cloud transformation is training. Many fail to reach the cloud advantages they should because they see training as an afterthought. But the knowledge and skills of your people will determine the success of your cloud transformation.