Cloud Culture And The IT Shift: From Control To Collaboration

By Melody Brue, Patrick Moorhead - March 29, 2023

The increasing investment in IT infrastructure over the last decade has led to a rise in cloud migration. According to one report on cloud computing, the market value for cloud migration services was $119 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $448 billion by 2026. The proliferation of the cloud and the learnings captured over the years has businesses turning to “cloud culture.”

Cloud culture refers to the set of attitudes, values and behaviors that are associated with cloud computing. Companies that embrace a cloud culture focus on collaboration, flexibility and scalability not only in terms of their technology infrastructure, but also in their work processes. Fostering a cloud culture allows companies to take advantage of the benefits of flexible infrastructure, enhanced security and business resilience, to name just a few. More importantly, cloud culture promotes alignment within an organization.

A couple of months ago, an Executive Insights panel at AWS re:Invent featured Sean Scott, chief product development officer at PagerDuty, a cloud-based incident response company. Scott likened cloud culture within an organization to the role of a technology platform built for everyone's greater benefit. “Think of your culture as a ‘culture platform,’” he said. “The better your platform is, the easier it is for the whole company to operate.” Then came the real payoff from a strategic perspective: “If you get the culture right, you can do just about anything.”

Adopting a cloud culture catalyzes companies to enhance their agility, revolutionize their industries, adopt a data-driven approach and elevate customer and employee experiences. Cloud culture-focused organizations are characterized by a willingness to embrace new technologies and approaches to problem-solving, which fosters efficient working methods and provides greater access to data and resources.

For cloud-native companies, cloud culture has always been the only way

Cloud-native computing involves designing, constructing and managing modern applications that leverage the inherent flexibility, scalability and resilience of cloud computing. Done well, it involves much more than simply transferring an existing application to the cloud; rather, it requires a different mindset toward application development that fully embraces the capabilities of cloud technology.

Being cloud-centric equates to putting ownership in the hands of teams, enabling collaboration throughout the organization and quickening development cycles. What this means for organizations is that cloud computing allows companies and the groups within them to work iteratively and with more agility. Cloud culture has changed how businesses operate, making them better able to react quickly and intelligently to micro and macro changes.

Cloud-native companies that built their IT infrastructure in the cloud tend to establish a culture where employees feel empowered to make decisions and take risks. They prioritize sensible automation and flexible approaches such as DevOps not only to speed up the software development process, but to create better alignment and, ultimately, to produce better outcomes.

Non-cloud-native companies may have a heavier lift developing a cloud culture

For non-cloud-native organizations, migration to the cloud has predominantly been an IT-led journey. The rest of the organization gets trained and brought up to speed—in some cases reluctantly—which can result in high failure rates for cloud adoption. This can happen especially when leaders who are enamored by the promise of cloud computing fail to clearly articulate the business need within an organization, or to explain and account for the systemic changes that must occur.

This is not to say that companies cannot migrate to the cloud and create a cloud culture, but it can require a large shift in working methods—and significant effort. Building a cloud culture requires an organizational fucus on collaboration, flexibility and scalability in both work processes and technology infrastructures. Beyond that, cloud culture must be adopted across an organization based on a universal understanding that the shift is worth it because of the benefits it creates far beyond IT.

IT: A shift from control to collaboration

CIOs must manage technology, but in many cases that task is no longer the primary or most challenging aspect of their roles. The real challenge lies in managing people, processes and data in relation to technology as a company navigates transformation. In every case, employee buy-in is mandatory. For starters, if you show employees, especially millennials and those from Gen Z, your cloud roadmap, they will better understand the purpose of cloud culture—as well as their roles in the company.

In the transition to cloud culture, one key area of focus must be dataAccording to Genpact research, CIOs are promoting data literacy across their organizations, not only in areas like data analytics and AI. The Genpact survey found that 82% of CIOs dedicated significant efforts to cultivating a culture of data-driven decision-making.

Empowering more people across an organization with access to data reduces static reporting and allows for faster decision making and problem-solving. Access to data also helps align teams so that everyone is working towards the same objectives. It also eases some of the burdens on IT and data scientists, making them less gatekeepers and more champions of a company’s tech stack.

With the right culture, the sky is the limit

Throughout the early phases of the pandemic, it was evident that companies with a robust foundation in cloud technology and cloud culture could adapt to the changing situation by making swift and often radical changes such as transitioning to remote work and quickly adopting new products, services or business models. That agility to move with real urgency in unprecedented times proved to be a game changer for many companies.

The last few years have taught many hard lessons about adapting to massive change as the pandemic has shifted how people work, shop, bank, learn and interact in nearly every aspect of business and life. But companies with a cloud culture have been able to react and respond quickly to these changes. In hard times, a culture of collaboration and data sharing will benefit any company.

As digital transformation has spread across industries, leaders in every type and size of organization have recognized the agility that cloud technology provides to support business initiatives without requiring significant investments in IT infrastructure. Indeed, surviving in the current business climate—let alone whatever complications the future brings—requires a powerful cloud strategy that enables ongoing transformation.

However, employee support is crucial for businesses to make progress. To leverage innovative capabilities and reap the benefits of cloud technology, organizations must incorporate cultural traits of agility, autonomy and speed into their deployment strategy. This extends to fostering effective communication, promoting teamwork and optimizing workflow processes. Bringing the power of cloud culture to a company is just as important as embracing cloud technology for realizing the full business value of the human capital in an organization.

Melody Brue

Mel Brue is vice president and principal analyst covering modern work and financial services. Mel has more than 25 years of real tech industry experience in marketing, business development, and communications across various disciplines, both in-house and at agencies, with companies ranging from start-ups to global brands. She has built a unique specialty working in technology and highly regulated spaces, such as mobile payments and finance, gaming, automotive, wine and spirits, and mobile content, ensuring initiatives address the needs of customers, employees, lobbyists and legislators, as well as shareholders. 

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.