Who is invited to your cloud strategy party?

We’ve all worked for companies where core IT decisions are made by a few leaders in the organization. Maybe you’re working for a company like this now. In exit interviews, many people cite this as the core reason for leaving—not pay or the working environment. People feel they have little or no say in the overall direction of IT solutions. They are not in the meetings where the core decisions are made about the types of technologies, the configuration of those technologies, the roles, and the plans for integration and deployment. As cloud pros, this would translate to cloud architectures and deployments, devops toolchains and processes, and the overall enterprise data strategy.

This is not a new problem. I’ve seen it play out in one form or another for the past 30 years. It’s related to human nature. When we include fewer people in critical decisions, we’re less likely to hear dissenting opinions. Many of these opinions could be better ideas that need to be considered. Perhaps they raise issues nobody has thought about but could cause significant adverse events down the road.

An example: You’re deploying a new cloud-based database to track critical business transactions. However, no one considered that this database would need to serve data outside the country within a few years and therefore would be subject to data storage compliance or data sovereignty regulations.

If no one raises this issue when the database and cloud provider are selected, it will likely be missed entirely. The database may need to be swapped out for one that natively supports data sovereignty. This is a very avoidable cost of several million dollars.

I agree that it’s unpleasant to defend your decisions to large numbers of second-guessers, and yes, you can have too many people in the loop (aka “design by committee”). However, the more key people who have visibility into your decisions and can provide input, the more likely you will make optimized technology and architectural decisions.

As I go back to doing conference presentations in person and talk to more people tasked with building cloud solutions, this is becoming an obvious problem. I see the issue from both sides: the people who set up their inner circles and those on the outside who are growing frustrated as they see mistakes hurt their employers. In many cases, the “outsiders” approach me with a CV in hand.

The fix for this is rather easy. If you are leaving people out of your cloud strategy or cloud architecture working group because you don’t want to deal with pushback, you are likely part of the problem. On the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t take this idea to a dysfunctional extreme. Consider opening your cloud strategy working groups to others who may provide valuable input. Here are a few simple concepts:

Find knowledgeable people. The more qualified people you include in decision-making, the more likely you will come up with the correct answer and the less likely you’ll make a mistake. Although a bigger group can prolong some decisions, the idea is to consider all input but not let endless discussions bog you down. Qualified input leads to better adoption of the ultimate cloud solutions. 

Input is connected to ownership. If you actively participate in discussions about which technology and configurations to use, you’re more motivated to make that solution successful during implementation. How often have you been asked to support decisions you didn’t contribute to and believe are a mistake? It’s not exactly motivating to do what you think is wrong.

Shared ownership boosts employee retention. Most people who ask me for advice about a job change do so because they don’t feel their opinions are valued. Include key players in published updates if they can’t be part of the decision-making team. Be open to feedback.

This is more of a leadership lesson than a cloud architecture or cloud strategy lesson. You could apply it to auto design, factory efficiency, or any number of scenarios, as the concepts and values are the same. I bring it up in the context of cloud strategy because we’re about to see many avoidable mistakes due to a lack of transparency and input. It’s time to expand your inner circle.

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