Your company’s future competitiveness will depend on how you transform your business using cloud computing. The modern cloud is more versatile, flexible, and mobile than any previous version. As with many new technologies such as the Internet and other digital tools, the key to reaping the benefits is not having access to the technology but rather from using new methods.
It isn’t possible to achieve such a critical transformation by relying on top-down directives. Google, and others, have seen the power of bottom-up initiatives to accelerate change. Sometimes, the conversion happens spontaneously.
Leaders need to empower and foster these communities to see a transformation.
How can you build a community that is eager to use the cloud? We found that sponsoring an internal cloud incubator was the most efficient way to go. This is a collaborative structure that pairs cross-functional teams with mentors to help them adopt the cloud. After gaining expertise and seeing success in the incubator, teams can graduate and join a community that helps accelerate and spread transformation within your organization.
This strategy has worked with many businesses, including in retail at America’sAmerica’s largest grocers, We have also seen it work in the health sciences and other industries. More important than the size or sophistication of an enterprise is its desire to innovate and transform.
It’sIt’s not just us who believe so. Although you may not see yourself as a software organization today, you will soon realize that software artifacts can replace hardware as you adopt cloud computing. DevOps blends software practices with IT operations, and it is an excellent practice for adopting the cloud. The following approach can be used if you don’t have communities.
How to incubate cloud communities
It is best to begin small. You will need to incubate a few projects, each with a team of between two and eight people. Your goal is to release something to production within a few months to weeks. This allows for rapid experimentation and a focus on “good enough” in the hope that future iterations will improve.
It allows you to adjust your incubator to suit your particular organizational dynamics. You can also spread your efforts more wisely and avoid making too many big bets.
How can you choose which projects are to be incubated? Either the project is proposed by a team with clearly defined business benefits and success criteria. Or, it can be chosen through a process. Engage is usually more powerful when people choose themselves, and not being managed.
For anyone who leads such an initiative, the question is how to structure them. Every enterprise is different, so there will be many implementations. However, there are some principles that you can use to guide your incubation program.
- Code that solves real business problems can be released for production.
- Mentors can be embedded into the teams to share in the team’steam’s success or failure.
- Encourage rapid experimentation, where failure can be seen as learning.
- Collect learnings and pay it forward from one team to another.
- Establish a community around a shared goal.
Teams chosen to incubate are often disappointed by the company’scompany’s slow response times to customer’scustomer’s changing needs and threats. They have the knowledge to test innovative solutions, but they lack the skills required to do so in the cloud.
These are the mentors for cloud professionals. These cloud professionals should be embedded in the teams where they will perform three important duties:
- They providehands-on skills transferPairing programming is used to teach teams how to use cloud services individually and learn them. This last point is critical, as teams use new services often over time.
- Mentors Challenge teams to experiment quickly. Multiple solutions are possible without fear of failure. Failure is encouraged, as it is an inevitable part of innovation and discovery. It also serves as a foundation for learning. Mentors encourage this mindset by demonstrating how you can quickly execute experiments using cloud resources on-demand at a minimal cost.
- Mentors should be constantly challenged to move beyond their comfort zones. You can challenge them by asking why, how, why, and similarly why not. They make sure that teams are focused on real business change and discourage technology-driven change.
A final point: Mentors do not have to be experts in every aspect of cloud computing. Mentors may be learning from their teams, as well as teaching them. This model is an essential skill that teams must master.
Scaling up to expand your community
You have now run a few successful projects using the incubator model. Now you can tweak the process and start to see the benefits. You can now scale the process by applying what you’ve learned to make the flywheel spin faster. The saying goes that “Mighty oaks can be grown from small acorns.”
Scale your mentors. To mentor early incubator participants, recruit them. You don’t have for them to be experts. But they need a community that can provide support when they get stuck.
Team members should be self-sufficient. If mentors are to support their teams, it is essential to let them know that they don’t have to act as a constant crutch. This will prevent the mentors from becoming self-sufficient. This allows mentors to work with multiple teams simultaneously.
Establish a community. Create a community to make it easy for teams and individuals to collaborate and share their learnings. Start by having the teams that have graduated from the incubator present their projects to their community.
You don’t have to stop there. Because it takes time and effort, the incubator must actively sponsor the community. Each team that you incubate increases the size and strength of the informal networks within the community. Teams and practitioners need to work together, tackle more challenging issues and increase their knowledge.
This is where the community can become self-sustaining. It allows innovation by one team to quickly be adopted by other groups, increasing the rate of innovation across your entire organization, regardless of organizational borders.
The community should be the point of reference for best practices, policy formulation, and shaping the norms that underpin data governance.
As the sponsor of the cloud community, the incubator should promote a sense of community through different ways, such as hosting chat channels and a wiki that answers FAQs, a blog, and an internal sourcing code repository. It can also sponsor special events such as hackathons and workshops to bring members together. Fostering informal networks, which we all know have an influential role in driving innovation and transformation within organizations, is the key.
Your role as leader
Leaders must champion the incubator and help teams overcome obstacles. They should also celebrate their successes. It is important to recognize teams that fail and take risks. True innovation and transformation only happen when you are willing to take risks. If couples don’t forget, they are likely not trying new approaches or trying those that aren’t too disruptive to the status quo. You may be more susceptible to disruption by your competitors, or you might fail to meet ever-changing customer needs.
It is essential to consider how you can balance vision and direction from the top with the bottom up to support those who must carry out the picture. A cloud incubator is an effective tool for striking this balance.