Steps to Build a Cloud Fluency Program
When it is important to build fluency beyond traditional IT roles
The cloud has created a paradigm shift in how IT applications are developed and delivered to enable businesses. This shift affects every person within an organization, from IT, to business, sales, marketing, finance, and HR. Organizations that recognize this learning need and start building cloud fluency as an intentional effort, are the ones who are most successful in the long run. These organizations intentionally create roles for training evangelism to scale their learning efforts.
Three characteristics of building successful cloud fluency
Cloud skilling needs to be a top-down mandate: The most successful re-skilling initiatives begin from the top down. Training should get a seat at the strategy table. The C-suite will need to get behind this and earmark budget, define goals, and assign ownership.
Cloud skilling needs to be backed by bottom-up data: AWS, as an example, employs established mechanisms to identify training needs and is a bottom-up approach to identify skill gaps. This data, when collocated with the top-down mandate, will create a powerful forcing function to pursue a re-skilling program.
Cloud skilling is for everyone: The keyword here is everyone. Each persona in an organization is affected by how and what the cloud enables their business to achieve. The degree of learning will of course vary.
Getting started on cloud fluency
State your case. Like any successful business initiative, building a durable and long term cloud fluency program starts with a clearly written, jargon-free objective statement. A 1–2 page word document outlining the business reason(s) why a cloud fluency initiative is important for your organization, its benefit(s) to everyone involved, and how will you measure success.
While building the case, an organization will have to spend the most time answering the “what’s in it for me” question, especially for the non-tech roles.
Customers of many enterprise organizations are asking to deliver capabilities that line up with the premise of cloud (elasticity, resiliency, security, geo-spread, innovation, and security). Hence a non-tech audience, like a sales person for a retail bank product, will have to be aware of these cloud premises for products she is selling which is built on cloud. Understanding what drives such conversation for your enterprise will be key in answering the “what’s in it for me”. Once that is understood, narrating the benefits to everyone will be data driven, and measuring success will be quantitative.
Identify the personas. Personas like the retail bank sales person are the customers of this initiative. They need to be well represented and correctly defined. In my experience, the personas have spanned from the IT workforce (every imaginable IT role), to product management, business line leaders, sales heads, and more. When the entire organization understands the value proposition of AWS, it helps create a consistent message of the technology strategy and business direction.
Coursework. At this stage, you will ideally be working with your cloud provider’s training and certification contact to perform the needs analysis of your constituents. Based on the analysis of your personas’ learning needs (role, geo, tenure), a coursework needs to be prepared.
Share the objectives. Starting from the top of the organization, share the objective, including the personas involved — originating from the office of the CEO, or the joint offices of a technology and a business leader.
With the objectives shared and the learning analysis completed, you move into the preparation phase.
Establish and report metrics. Some customers choose to track progress by the number of individuals who earn cloud certifications; others track self-reported instances of using new skills learned. Still others track how many new workloads in the organization moved to cloud in a set period of time, or how many new customers could be reached. Any way you choose to track and share measures of success, ensure you are addressing the business relevance to the organization. Organizations that are most successful in executing cloud fluency programs attach these metrics to their Management By Objectives (MBOs) and business outcomes.
Identify training champions. Depending on the size, geographic spread, persona spread, and cultural skew of your organization, identify a number of training evangelists. These champions help to evangelize the objective of the cloud fluency program, and are its owners to help catalyze the organization. Select champions from every strata of your organization who are well respected, outgoing, and carry influence within the business (this does not mean they have to be senior or tenured). Give your evangelists a sneak peek into the metrics, how training will be delivered, and what will be included, and give them the opportunity to input for future iterations/improvements. To get an idea of how, for example, AWS uses training champions, please visit this page.
Core responsibilities of the evangelists include, but not limited to, the below:
- Building advocacy mechanisms within your organization through collaboration channels like community of practices, confluence pages, Slack channels.
- Establishing physical mechanisms for knowledge sharing (e.g., lunch and learns, brown bag sessions), Q&A, and office hours. This will be an opportunity to share learnings internally and if allowed, externally.
- Generating steady stream of feedback from training participants on how to make training better and improve delivery of the “what’s in it for me”.
- Connecting with industry and as an example, AWS experts through industry and AWS advocacy or developer channels to further learning, and sharing this within the organization.
- If allowed, creating external meetups or user groups in order to share repeatable solutions that are relevant for the industry you are in and possibly, outside of it. This can be solutions for industry use cases and common solutions built on AWS.
With the groundwork completed, now is the time to start communicating the modes of learning and building excitement prior to the cloud fluency program’s launch. The communication needs to reach everyone within the organization and should contain an overview of the programs and the objectives, training modalities, training evangelists’ bios, and the program timeline.
Town halls, broadcast videos, desk drops, flyers, and desktop screensavers are just a few of the many vehicles that can be used to disseminate information. Plan for this broad communication to occur one quarter in advance of the program’s launch.
Launch the cloud fluency program with a lot of fanfare. Every little achievement should be celebrated and recognized. Establish a leaderboard to share progress. Establish office hours to answer questions. Every leader (business unit leaders, vice presidents, senior directors) should include a learning progress update for their area of remit within the organization. That helps create a culture of healthy competition and positive reinforcement.
Use the community of sharing. By this time, training evangelists will have established the mechanisms and cadence for sharing information as a community within the organization. Encourage everyone to partake in sharing their experiences, questions, and input to the learning.
Feedback. Establish a channel for employees to provide feedback, and ensure your champions are encouraging its use. Collect and iterate on unfiltered feedback from your constituents. That will help make the coursework better over time and introduce new and fit-for-purpose curriculum.
None of anything mentioned in this blog represents official AWS guidance and may have quality issues.