Collapse Project Teams to Succeed With a Cloud Services Model

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The shift to the cloud has certainly brought a whole host of changes to those of us in the services business—some welcome, some not so much. Coming from a services background, I figured I knew exactly how to run projects for delivery and financial success. What I learned was that the changes that the cloud economy fosters go well beyond the technology; there are significant cultural changes as well.

So let me talk about what is probably one of the most significant area of cultural change: staffing. You may have already started running cloud projects, and what you are no doubt seeing (or will see when you begin selling these deals) is that cloud projects are shorter, more numerous and more discreet than on premise—what I’ll call “traditional projects” for lack of a better term. Cloud projects behave this way for two related reasons:

-- The reason clients are moving to the cloud is to be more agile and easily iterative.
-- Cloud customers expect a quick project implementation cycle to reflect the agility and iteration capability they are buying.

Imagine that projects on cloud adoption curve are on a dial, not a switch: these projects are completed in bits and pieces rather than one monolithic shift.

What follows from this new project model is that project teams need to also reflect cloud’s agility promise: they need to be smaller and more agile. And the changes you need to make as a provider are significant, because to be successful financially you need to carry less cost into the engagement. You will not be able to support the classic overhead roles you have in the traditional project world.

To achieve this change, you need to collapse certain roles and be more judicious about others. Here are key staffing adjustments to help you succeed:

-- Technical Leader
Your technical leader role needs to increase in scope. The technical leader on a cloud project needs to support a certain amount of engagement management. This role now has responsibility for continually setting the stage for clients to demonstrate where you can continue to add value. This role also needs to be defining what the next project looks like and shaping it for your sales team.

-- Project Manager
A fully dedicated project manager is a thing of the past. You will struggle to carry those costs in the cloud model. As a result, your project management methodology needs to be more nimble and more agile: you will be most successful using fractional project management. By definition, then, projects will have to run with a much lighter touch.

-- Team Members
The project management adjustments have some significant implications for staffing the team. Since you are running with a more high-level or fractional project manager, you will most likely need to slightly increase the experience level of other team members. If you put a lot of junior people on a team with less leadership, you may find that you run into service delivery problems that you haven’t seen before.

Given these staffing shifts, you can imagine that blending the staffing, cost management and project management for both cloud services and traditional services under one umbrella will prove challenging for anything but a deep-pocketed organization. If you are wringing your hands wondering how to make this work within your business model, my recommendation is to run your cloud services business as a separate organization from your traditional services business. It will make life much easier and you will find cloud services success.


Alex Brown is the founder and CEO of 10th Magnitude, an all-cloud services firm offering Migration, Application Development, DevOps and Infrastructure Automation and Managed Services to help clients of all sizes innovate faster and compete better. He is a featured speaker at the XChange Solution Provider 2014 conference, running March 2 through March 4 in Los Angeles.


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