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Cloud Partners 2015 conference: How to overcome cloud skepticism

The CIO of Asheville, N.C., offered tips to partners on how to overcome customer objections to cloud adoption at a recent channel conference.

BOSTON -- It's not uncommon that channel partners get a mixed response at customer sites about cloud. In a session -- Selling Cloud to Skeptics -- held this week at the Cloud Partners 2015 conference, attendees heard about what spooks companies about cloud services and how to overcome objections.

The good news is that, at many organizations, partners have allies when it comes to cloud: the finance department and the business, according to Jonathan Feldman, CIO for the City of Asheville, N.C., and conference session speaker. Feldman also worked, earlier in his career, at a professional services firm.

The finance guys love the numbers -- or the low cost of cloud compared to a capital expenditure -- and the business is open to cloud because an app can be turned up quickly and it works, he stated.

"The big problem is that IT sees the cloud differently," Feldman said, adding that security and control are top issues for IT departments that view anything other than on-premises solutions with suspicion and fear.

The big problem is that IT sees the cloud differently.
Jonathan FeldmanCIO, City of Asheville, N.C.

Partners need to take a deeper dive into what drives the fear.

Feldman pointed to three things:

  1. Cloud smells a lot like outsourcing, which to the CIO means, "I'll lose my job."
  2. Any problems related to cloud will be blamed on the IT department.
  3. The perception that everything is working OK as it is; the company doesn't need cloud services and cloud response times will be poor anyway.

Cloud Partners conference attendees hear how to deal with concerns

So, what's a partner to do?

Force doesn't work and generally backfires. "You don't want a customer going into something in a blind panic. It's better to calm them down, deal with their legitimate concerns and address them," said Feldman.

How to do it? He made several suggestions.

Encourage a peer validation conversation rather than a top-down conversation. "Creating a demo can lead to an 'aha' moment for a lot of folks," said Feldman, who told a story about creating a demo and bringing in application, infrastructure and even help desk people to listen and learn about the experience.

A second recommendation is to build a local business case. An example that the Cloud Partners 2015 conference speaker gave was using a cloud computing offering for backup and recovery for the City of Asheville rather than rely on a backup and recovery data center that was located two blocks away from the primary data center -- noting that the cloud approach wasn't expensive and it wasn't risky.

Another recommendation: compare security capabilities. "A big cloud provider is better at security than most small and medium-size IT shops," he said.

In fact, to allay the fears of some naysayers in Asheville about a cloud backup and recovery environment, Feldman offered to bring experts to test for security glitches in the proposed cloud offering that used Amazon Web Services (AWS). "If any security problems were found, I said I'd back down and never talk about it again," he said.

More advice: Security audits can prove useful

The security audit proved very useful to the city and did, in fact, raise some red flags. However, the security issues weren't about AWS; they targeted the City of Asheville's IT infrastructure.

Finally, partners need to quell IT fears about cloud by finding the "easy button."

"If you want to win with cloud computing at your customer's organization, you have to find the easy button, or make the experience frictionless," said Feldman. In other words, the partner must remove any complexity, barriers or anything that makes the experience difficult.

The Cloud Partners conference wraps up Sept. 18.

Next Steps

Read more in SearchITChannel on how to overcome resistance to change

See SearchCIO to learn what's holding CIOs back with respect to cloud migration

Take a look at SearchCloudProvider's discussion of the uncloud trend

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