Successful companies are a little like a gourmet dish.
In a perfectly seasoned, exquisitely prepared main dish, lots of different ingredients come together in perfect harmony to create an experience. Each ingredient exists as part of the dish because of the unique elements it offers. The combination of those ingredients, in the right amounts, create a singular expression of the combined elements that the individual ingredients could never accomplish on their own.
In a successful company, you bring together a lot of different experts with many different skill sets. Each one is critically important to the continued success of the business. And each one has a different set of skills than the others.
And while those differences create the optimal environment, ensuring the diversity of skills are completely represented to handle all of the situations a company may face, it can make certain conversations more challenging.
For instance, when technology leaders try to talk to their peers about subjects like the cloud. Business leaders within an organization have their own knowledge sets and subjects in which they are well versed. But the cloud may not be one of them. In fact, it’s unlikely to be something they have spent much time getting a firm grasp of.
So how do you talk to your peers about a subject as important – and potentially beneficial to your organization’s bottom line – as the cloud? How do you get buy-in from your business partners on a subject that even some technologist have a hard time grasping?
The 3 Challenges of Talking to the Business About the Cloud
Leveraging the cloud within your organization comes with a unique set of challenges and hurdles, from staff training and role definition to organizational adoption. Without buy-in from the business, however, a move to the cloud can stop before it even starts. Some of the questions the business needs answered haven’t changed, while others have evolved in parallel with cloud services offerings.
In all of the discussions you may have around cloud adoption with your business counterparts, the talks will likely boil down to 3 themes – education, value vs risk (from a business perspective) and security concerns.
It’s unlikely that a discussion will contain only one of those themes, in fact, and they aren’t dissimilar to what is needed in any other conversation regarding business assets and investments. The complication here is the conceptual nature of the cloud, and how it represents a vastly different mindset in modern business.
Be Ready to Teach
It’s because of the conceptual nature of the cloud and the shift in thinking required to fully understand its value to your organization that all conversations with your peers must start with some education.
That can be challenging when it feels like we’ve been talking about the cloud in one form or another forever. But even within IT, there are people who don’t truly understand the cloud. It’s hardly fair to expect those outside IT to see the value when they don’t really understand what it is.
The education you invest in early on will set the table for talking about the value and benefits of the cloud for your organization. If your audience doesn’t understand the basic concepts of the cloud, they will never fully grasp why your recommendation of a hybrid solution makes more sense than a full public cloud migration.
As dangerous as the uninformed partner is to your plans, the misinformed or partially informed business audience can be far worse. Make sure that your discussions not only include an understanding of the basics but address common misconceptions about a business’s implementation of the cloud, especially as they relate to costs, staffing, and security.
Risk and Benefit
You can bet that a business partner, once they understand cloud basics, will immediately begin asking about what the benefits and the risks are to the organization.
The good news is it’s easy to talk about the benefits of the cloud with your peers because the majority of the benefits have a clear business component to them. It’s easy to speak in business terms about the money saved by not buying or updating equipment, or how you can reduce the IT resource gap thanks to the care and maintenance of applications and platforms residing with the cloud provider.
The challenge can come in when discussing the risks. With a topic like vendor lock-in, for instance, it can be difficult to talk about how development on a specific platform ties you to that platform, or how using a particular SaaS product can result in a large migration project later on. It’s important to keep the conversation focused on the business benefits and not get mired in the technical details.
It’s also important to make sure that your partners understand that there is risk associated with a move to the cloud. Don’t allow your peers to become overly enamored of the potential savings a cloud implementation can bring without being sure they are clear on the caveats that come along with a cloud implementation.
The last piece to be prepared to discuss with your business partners is the security of current cloud implementations. We’ve come a long way with cloud security in a very short time, and it’s conceivable that your peers may not be aware of all of the recent advancements in security and the cloud.
One of the most apparent benefits to technologists is the frequent updates and patching that occur automatically with cloud applications, platforms, and services. One tactic you can use is to tie risk mitigations like this one to business continuity. Understanding the loss of time across the entire organization because of an outage or breach can bring the point home to the business.
If relevant, be sure to also discuss the more recent advancements in security, like PCI compliant offerings. As little as 6 years ago, there was no standard for cloud-based PCI compliant systems. Today, organizations are able to leverage offerings from a number of vendors. That’s not to say that PCI compliance in the cloud is not without its challenges, but the progress toward this stringent set of requirements can indicate the advancements in the realm of cloud computing.
As with all cross-functional conversations, be sure you are 1) addressing what your audience cares about and 2) providing explanations that speak at your audience’s level. For instance, presenting cloud usage to the executive team of a multi-national corporation may require informing your audience on advancements in security that will address data residency concerns for your European operations, while a conversation to convince the president of a small, agile software firm to move to the cloud may revolve more around speed and scale. No matter if you are educating or speaking to the benefits and risks of a move to the cloud, make sure your message is audience appropriate.
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