It's not budgets, technology issues or strategic worries that are creating roadblocks for cloud projects in many enterprises. Instead, deep-seated fears of change and requirements for more cloud education are keeping many enterprises from moving forward.
That's the conclusion of a new cloud computing study from TheInfoPro, a division of The 451 Group, which found that 52 percent of 109 medium to large enterprise respondents believed that changes are needed in these attitudes for their cloud plans to achieve real success.
"That has been a key roadblock for an awfully long time for a lot of initiatives," says Sean Hackett, an analyst for TheInfoPro and the author of the study. "It's where ERP was 10 years ago. It's always been a core inhibitor of IT projects. Changing the ways that people do things all day is not easy to do."
Fear of change tends to be underestimated when companies decide to mix things up and take new approaches to tried-and-true ways of doing things, he says. "It's not just changing what people do all day in terms of how they use software, like moving to SaaS, but it's also about infrastructure and about application developers and how they think about developing an application."
To change these mindsets, companies have to take the initiative to prepare their IT workers and users for the cloud developments to come, Hackett says. "They have to be trained in what's possible."
That means companies looking to move to the cloud need to work hard to engage their IT staff members to help them learn what they need to know and to believe in the process as the strategy is being mapped out.
"They need to plan better and get management buy-in and user buy- in," Hackett says. "There is a lot of push back on these projects because not enough preparation is being done."
When the respondents were asked what advice they have for other companies as they pursue cloud strategies, some 40 percent suggested that enterprises do more planning than they anticipate, according to the survey.
What it often boils down to is that jumping into a cloud project just isn't as simple as IT leaders expect it to be, Hackett says. "They need to rethink the integration complexity and figure out how to best integrate everything. They're just challenges, but they are challenges that a lot of CIOs were not originally thinking about when they thought about the cloud."
One example, he says, is that companies can make initial cloud decisions without looking at how other IT processes would be affected later, such as selecting SaaS options without thinking it all through. That can create problems, he says.
"Now maybe they have Salesforce and SAP on the backend and they want to enter new customer records but the two systems won't talk to each other," Hackett says. "In essence, they've gone out and procured a lot of technologies and they don't mix, creating a lot of siloes again."
That certainly doesn't induce confidence and comfort with your IT team and users.
More teaching, talking and listening are needed to help IT team members and users accept and embrace cloud options in their enterprises, Hackett says.
"There's a lot of education that has to be done by the vendors, too, and there's a lot of opportunity," he says. "I think we're a lot further behind than a lot of people on the analyst and vendor sides expected. As you uncover and look at where the rubber meets the road, it doesn't look like a lot of this disruptive stuff is really happening."
The 168-page report, "TheInfoPro Cloud Computing Study," asked respondents 151 questions about their cloud deployment plans and projects earlier this year and was completed in May. The cloud studies are done twice a year based on hour-long interviews with cloud decision-makers at large enterprises in North America, according to the company. This report covers the first half of 2011.
Other key findings of the study include:
* Additional cloud roadblocks included up-front costs, reported by 15 percent of the respondents, and security worries, reported by 13 percent.
* Cost reduction is named by 68 percent of the respondents as the leading justification for implementing cloud services, followed by increased flexibility/scalability, named by 24 percent. About 21 percent named reduced complexity as a key driver in moving toward the cloud.
* Seventy-five percent of the respondents reported that they have virtualized their cloud servers, but few have implemented the core management, automation and orchestration functionality to use the cloud to its full potential.
Todd R. Weiss covers Enterprise Applications, SaaS, CRM, and Cloud Computing for CIO.com. Follow Todd on Twitter @TechManTalking. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also join Todd in the "CIO Forum" group on LinkedIn.com to talk with CIOs and IT managers about the things that keep them up at night.