I spend a lot of my time talking to customers and colleagues about datacenter migrations and the strategy of how to move away from an on-premises datacenter to the cloud, specifically Azure. Throughout those conversations I've learnt a lot, about datacenter migrations and people.
During the conversations about moving to the cloud and trying to figure out the strategy of that move there are a lot of factors that help, hinder and derail these projects. And these can be technical factors or business factors, but they can also be people factors. And although I love being a techie and solving those problems and thinking out the box, it's the people factor that I find fascinating these days.
The people factor can be so influential in any project but especially in a datacenter migration. And there can be six reasons why people are a factor: FFUUEE. Let's break down that acronym and understand what those six factors are.
- Fair: The task seems unreasonable.
- Fear: The person assigned the task is afraid.
- Understand: The task doesn't make sense to the person assigned it.
- Urgent: There's no pressure for the task to be completed.
- Entitled: The person assigned the task doesn't feel like it's something they should be doing.
- Exhausted: The person assigned the task doesn't have time to complete it.
People often think it isn't fair that they've been assigned a task over someone else is an issue in workplaces. If we are all honest, we've all thought that at one stage or another, right? This can be something we think because we're having a bad spell either at work or at home, or it could be a cultural thing built into the organisation.
For me this is where education can help to change the perception, if you invest in your staff, either by providing them with free training and time to make use of it or send them on courses it can help to drive enthusiasm. So instead of them "moaning" they shouldn't be doing a task they'll be excited to be involved.
A few years ago talking to people about moving to the cloud it was a scary prospect as they were worried about it taking their job away and I think a lot of that fear has disappeared. However, I think the fear has changed to be how to do learn it all and stay relevant and employable.
I tackle that fear by telling people to start with the basics and find their niche and concentrate on that. There are large areas of Azure that I don't know anything about but I know the bits that are relevant to the conversations I have day in day out quite well and am just slowly building up other areas as they become something I need to talk about or that interests me. As Satya Nadella is fond of saying "Don't be a know-it-all, be a learn-it-all."
Understanding the business need or technology need to move to the cloud might not always be immediately obvious to everyone within the IT department (or wider organisation) or even they might not be sure where to start with a migration project. This is where engaging Microsoft to help or a partner is very valuable. They can help to bring learnings from other engagements to yours, help advise on training, help to mentor your staff on what and how to learn things.
I'm also a very big advocate of encouraging people to attend user groups, conferences and invest in training/certifications. I've learnt a lot from attending these kinds of events or taking advantage of free training materials.
- Find your nearest Azure user group - https://aka.ms/azurefamily
- Learning Path training from Microsoft - Microsoft Learn
I've seen a few people start projects, such as a datacenter move and not have a compelling event or reason to actually do the project which results in a lot of apathy and sees the project drag on needlessly.
This is where you need to ensure you are doing a project for the right reasons and communicating that message down your organisation so that everyone is on the same page.
Sometimes you may have to make a compelling event in order to create that sense of urgency and priority. For example if you are moving to the cloud from an on-premises datacenter but don't have a hard exit date to be out, make that hard date and create that sense of urgency. People will start to think about how their applications/workloads can migrate if you tell them the infrastructure will be gone by a certain date.
Within some organisations you will find that the people who are in control of the datacenter are different and may report to different leaders than the people who develop/maintain the applications/workloads. So, you can end up in situations where there is a bit of "in fighting" and responsibility shirking happens when trying to do a migration. People try and say it's not their job to enable the move.
This is where the understanding and urgency parts come into play, senior leadership should hopefully be driving the correct message through the organisation and teams should understand the priority/urgency that the tasks have assigned to them.
It can be hard for people and teams to juggle their "day jobs" as well as "project work". I often see teams struggle and have even struggled myself in past roles trying to deal with the day to day tasks and then trying to implement and drive forward project work. Again, this is where the urgency part comes into play. If there is an urgent need to move this project forward then people should be (where possible) dedicated to implementing it and you can hopefully avoid your staff being exhausted and apathetic about the project.
Next time you are embarking on a project think about FFUUEE and how you can try and head of some of these factors that could influence your project early on. And if you've got any great advice or practices you've employed to avoid the FFUUEE factors in your organisation please let me know.