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Keeping The Lights On During Your Cloud Journey

Unless you are a “born-in-the-cloud” company, you are probably on your cloud journey or planning to start one. This means you have a traditional environment you will need to support and maintain while on the journey. Aside from the complexities of managing multiple, disparate environments, you will be faced with staffing the management of the legacy environments. What are the staffing challenges you will face, and, more importantly, what are some strategies you can use to mitigate the risk?

Challenges you will likely face three major challenges in your cloud journey. In a previous article, we looked at some of the new skills your team will need in the cloud environment. Mastering those skills, along with new processes, will present a challenge. Even finding resources to support your hybrid environment will be challenging. Finally, keeping the team managing the legacy environment motivated may prove difficult.

  1. The Differences – In addition to the skills gaps that will need to be closed, there will be differences in your approach to operations. It is likely your cloud team will be adopting a DevOps approach. These processes may not work within your legacy environments. Asking your teams to operate in both worlds will be difficult.

You may need to change governance processes since security is also an area that will change in cloud environments. The shared security model used by most cloud platforms may require changes to policies, so it will undoubtedly lead to changes in processes.

Your journey to the cloud will bring new management tools as well. Depending on your cloud strategy and your approach to multi-cloud, you may be introducing multiple management tools, each with its own user interface.

  1. Scarcity Of Resources – The acceleration in the use of the cloud has led to a resource challenge. Trying to find cloud engineers with the skills of a tenured engineer, who also has knowledge of all the cloud platform’s native services and how to leverage them and an understanding of DevOps — all in a single person — is like the proverbial unicorn.

On the other side of the coin, finding engineers who are skilled in managing existing on-premises architecture and applications will become more and more difficult as older IT staff retire and other, younger staff members are attracted to the cloud, and as universities shift their curriculum to cloud-oriented studies.

  1. Motivation – The staff who are tasked with maintaining the legacy environments may feel like they are being left behind, irrelevant or even undervalued and underappreciated. You will need a plan to keep them engaged and incentivized to stay within your organization.


What Is Your Cloud Strategy?

Do you plan to move everything to the cloud in a short period of time in a big-bang approach? Or do you plan to be in a hybrid environment for some period of time, perhaps even for the foreseeable future? The longer you are in a hybrid environment, the less likely you will be able to use a single team approach. Related to this is the state of your legacy environments. Will there be a change freeze or will you continue to enhance and extend those resources? This may dictate which environment you focus your existing team in.

  1. Single Team Approach – The single team approach is one in which your existing team is expected to learn the cloud and perform migrations such as lift-and-shifts, refactors and redesigns. These IT staff are also charged with supporting the legacy environment during the journey — an approach that is only viable for smaller workloads and short timeframes. You may need to consider some strategic new hires or staff augmentation contractors to supplement your current team. You may consider offering an incentive to endure the short-term pain for long-term gain.
  2. Split Team Approach – In this approach, part of your staff is assigned to the cloud projects and part is assigned to the existing environments. As in the single-team approach, you may need to consider some additional hires in both environments.

If you are considering this approach, keep in mind the feelings of the team members “left” to support the legacy environments. You should provide them with a well-defined career path, so they don’t feel “stuck” or left behind. You may consider incentives like a bonus or training opportunities.

  1. Hybrid Team Approach – The hybrid approach addresses each team within IT independently. Some teams will use the single team approach while other teams will use the split team approach. For example, the systems engineering team or the network engineering team might use a split team approach while the service desk uses a single team approach.

In both the hybrid team and the single team approach, you need to pay close attention to who within your teams has the institutional knowledge. Many cloud initiatives have failed because those with the most institutional knowledge were assigned to the legacy team and were not readily available to the cloud team.

  1. Partner Approach – Leveraging a partner to support and maintain your current environment can be a great way to navigate the cloud journey. This partner may be the same one who is also helping with the cloud migration or a completely different organization.

Utilizing a partner to maintain your legacy platforms during your cloud journey will enable you to put your most valuable asset — your people — on the project that will bring the most value to your organization: the cloud journey.

Staffing Plan – Regardless of the strategy employed to keep the lights on, you will need a staffing plan. The staffing plan should describe the approach you will use to support the hybrid environments.


Roy Atkinson, CEO of Clifton Butterfield, suggests using the acronym VIRSA:

  • Vision: What is your vision for staffing
  • Incentives: What incentives will you offer?
  • Resources: What resources will you need?
  • Skills: What skills will your team need and where are the gaps?
  • Actions: What actions will turn the vision into reality?

Don’t forget: a detailed plan for keeping the lights on during the migration can help ensure a successful cloud journey!


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