3 tips for leading cloud adoption: Twin Cities CIO of the Year winners share

3 tips for leading cloud adoption: Twin Cities CIO of the Year winners share

You will face skeptics as you move more applications and workloads into the cloud model. Three award-winning CIOs share advice on how to shift mindsets

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CIO Cloud Strategy

Unlocking the value and promise of cloud computing is rarely easy. CIOs regularly encounter skeptics, naysayers, and plenty of other tricky dynamics when introducing the cloud model into their organizations. 

We caught up with three of the CIOs who recently won the 2019 Twin Cities CIO of the Year ORBIE Awards to find out how they are leading their organizations through cloud adoption. The awards were presented by the Twin Cities CIO Leadership Association, a professional community that annually recognizes CIOs for their excellence in technology leadership.

We asked the winners to share their personal strategies or beliefs for leading IT in the era of the cloud. Read on to learn how these leading CIOs are shifting mindsets and so they can drive new value with cloud computing. 

1. Help employees understand the power of embracing the cloud

Michael Larson, SVP & CIO, Agiliti: For a mid-market organization, the cloud levels the playing field. In most cases, it enables a mid-market organization to reap the benefits (scale, reliability, availability, security, innovation, etc.) that only large enterprises historically could and consume it on a "per drink" basis. While the cloud enables tremendous technical and business opportunities, it also introduces new dynamics that must be taken into account. Among the new realities: The cloud may alter the day-to-day activities of IT employees. This is not necessarily bad – just different – and it warrants understanding.

CIOs must take the time to explain to IT personnel how the cloud enables the business strategy and how they stand to grow by embracing it. The cloud and associated partnerships become an extension to the IT team (not a replacement), enabling IT to offer ever-increasing value to the business. Less time is consumed on "run" the business and more can be spent on "grow/transform" the business. 

If you can encourage your IT team to embrace cloud quickly without waiting to figure everything out, you can drive technical and business value almost immediately. Naturally, you must take obvious precautions. But if you’re encouraging your teams to fail fast, retool, and retry, the cloud opens up a world of opportunities for mid-market organizations like Agiliti. 

[ How widely are organizations using multiple cloud services? Read: Multi-cloud by the numbers: 11 interesting stats ]

2. To be successful, you must "want" the cloud 

William Tran, VP & CIO, Berkley Risk: Cloud technology provides many advantages such as flexibility, availability, capacity, mobility, collaboration, cost effectiveness. That said, cloud is transitioning from an emerging technology to mainstream. There is no longer a first mover advantage (moving to the cloud will not be disruptive). Companies should have a comprehensive cloud strategy before moving their applications and infrastructure to the cloud. However, companies should not wait too long in embracing cloud technology since it is a stepping stone or enabler to take advantage of many of the other emerging technologies such IoT, AI, VR/IR, blockchain, and so on. 

To be successful, you should not view cloud as a technology that you *must* migrate to, but rather a technology that you *want* to migrate to. After all, you need to go beyond the clouds to bask in the sun.

3. Engage stakeholders early and often 

Edmund Clark, VP of IT, CDO, and CIO, University of St. Thomas: The global shift to the cloud has been driven by a mandate to improve the customer experience. The focus on massive scalability and availability, along with agile experimentation and implementation, makes the cloud a much better choice for today's new applications than local hardware in a data center. Culturally, the biggest hurdle an organization will face during its cloud transition is the accompanying shift in mindset to support agile and design thinking methodologies.

Two simple rules have helped us in shifting mindsets at St. Thomas: 1) Always make sure your first few agile sprints have quick wins for the key stakeholders. This builds confidence in the approach and goodwill with the participants. 2) Make sure that these same stakeholders attend your design thinking sessions with the customers. Hearing these customer concerns firsthand is essential for stakeholder buy-in and shifting the organizational mindset to support these new approaches.

[ Want advice on how to address skeptics concerns about cloud security? Download, Hybrid cloud security: 5 questions skeptics will ask ]

As community manager for The Enterprisers Project, Ginny Hamilton helps build the site's community of CIOs, IT leaders, and readers. She is responsible for helping tell the stories of leading IT executives – showcasing the projects, experiences, and challenges they're facing in their roles as IT leaders.

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