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7 Tips on Leveraging a Change Agent Program to Boost Cloud Adoption

By Pierre Moncassin

Pierre Moncassin-cropIn nearly every other discussion I have with customers about cloud adoption, I hear mention of their challenge with “mindset change.” That challenge is often faced on both sides of the consumer/provider equation, as users (IT consumers) and operators (internal providers) need to change their approaches in order to define, operate, and consume cloud services efficiently.

These same organizations are fully aware that tackling mindset change is essential. The question is: How to go about it with often (typically always) restricted resources and funds?

Changing mindsets for cloud adoption takes more than technical training
One option is to invest in a formal change management consultancy project. Whilst such programs certainly deliver value (and many first-tier consultancies offer such services), they also require a substantial investment both in terms of expenditure and bandwidth of your internal resources.

The next option (and often the default option) boils down to education—typically a mix of functional training for users, and technical training for operators. Without a doubt, training brings valuable knowledge; however it does not always lead to changes in behavior.

Here’s where I can provide you with some useful guidance with lessons from a “change agent” program I was involved with at VMware. This program was designed to build internal awareness and disseminate expertise within a fast-developing global practice. Each of these principles below can be generalized to your broader cloud adoption initiative:

  1. Recruit early enthusiasts—preferably volunteers who want to be ahead of the curve.
  2. Make it personal—recognize individual contributions who are making an impact. Encourage participants to share information, and network with their counterparts in other locations.
  3. Mix structured, semi-structured, and informal communication—formal (meetings, webinars), semi-structured (brainstorming), and informal (social events, ad hoc discussions).
  4. Make the most of social media—great for facilitating free-flowing communication across dispersed team members.
  5. Work with existing structures and processes—no need to re-invent the wheel—our “change agents” are encouraged to use existing internal training programs—often they will be early adopters and provide valuable feedback on how to improve the training so others will benefit.
  6. Train the trainer—or more accurately, train the evangelist. Each individual is encouraged in turn to evangelize within their own team.
  7. Recruit across a diverse range of experience, seniority, and skills—the more diverse the participants, the broader the adoption and reach of the program across the user base. Also the varied experience brings valuable knowledge and feedback into the program.

Results
Within eight months, this unique program has helped VMware’s practice develop a community of more than 100 change agents in over 20 countries! Change agents have contributed to shape and refine the structured training programs in place, and continue to be actively involved in curriculum development.

Whether you are currently struggling with cloud adoption issues or anticipating them with future cloud initiative, I encourage you to try such a program as I’ve described above, and begin to apply these principles. I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences.

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Pierre Moncassin is an Operations Architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is currently on long-term assignment in Asia-Pacific. Follow @VMwareCloudOps on Twitter for future updates.