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Fit for Cloud: Five things the Cape Town Cycle Tour can teach us

Fit for Cloud

by Elmarie Grant, Head of Synthesis Academy

It’s almost that time of year again, when thousands of hopefuls gather their bikes in the shadow of Table Mountain to complete the gruelling (and thoroughly satisfying) Cape Town Cycle Tour. Every year, a select group of Synthesis employees joins some customers to pit endurance against the mountain, and to ride for a cause.

As the first Advanced Amazon Web Services (AWS) partner in Africa, Synthesis has prepared and supported many customers on their technology journeys, and has seen the good, the bad (and sometimes even the ugly!) in the pursuit to embrace Cloud.

And it’s agreed – like the Cycle Race, it’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth it.

1.“Cycling is not running in circles”

Surely, training for a cycle race is the same as training for a marathon? This only sounds like a good idea until our legs give out halfway up Suikerbossie. Cycling requires different muscles, different equipment and a completely different mindset to running.

Cloud migration is not just a matter of lifting old tech from a current environment and of dumping it into the Cloud. It is an opportunity to take big, hairy, audacious tech goals and work backwards. What innovative new on-demand, real-time services can be offered to customers? What improvements can (and should) be made to current architecture? What cost efficiencies can be achieved? And what about aligning business processes, procurement and learning culture to support this brave new world?

2. Train early and train often

It’s always best to have a plan to guide training. The same goes for Cloud transformations. There is ample research to show that organisations that have clear, comprehensive training plans have faster, cheaper and more efficient Cloud journeys. But it’s not a static approach: different teams will have different requirements at the various stages of the journey. Training execs, business teams and technical teams bring alignment and shared purpose to execute projects, and creates buy-in. Technical teams that are trained early are less likely to make mistakes or re-do tasks.

3. Pick a good partner

Getting out of bed on those cold, early-morning rides is so much easier when there is a helping hand. And if we have a training partner that has done it before, has a training plan, can talk us through your nutrition and can make it fun, we really are set up for success!

Working with a technology partner who has extensive skills, access to best practice and a deep understanding of our business and what we are trying to achieve will take the pain and cost out of any project. A good partner will offer sound, commercial and pragmatic advice; they can pick the right tool or service for the job and will know all the shortcuts (and warn of the dangers). And best of all, they’ll teach us all they know, so we can continue to innovate and build our business.

4. Cultivate a learning culture

Every race is new. We have new participants, new potholes, changing weather and, if our training didn’t go as planned, possibly even new muscles we didn’t know existed.  Getting through it is all about being adaptable, agile, being ready to take the opportunities on the downhills, and learning lessons.

Building a culture of learning within an organisation sets us up for greater adaptability, faster innovation, better service and happier employees. But learning comes at a cost (and not just a financial one!). We have to be committed to give our team members time to learn, and defend that time against clashing operational requirements. If learning remains an after-hours, individual pursuit, the benefits will never make it back to the office. We also have to tolerate some failure: no-one ever stayed on their bike the first time. Give people space to practice (and perfect) their craft.

5. Show off the medal!

The best part of the race is the celebration afterwards! We get to wear our medal, commiserate about the up-hills with our buddies and after a while, we start talking about next year’s race.

Celebrating our wins is a great way to acknowledge the hard work of our team. When the journey has been lonely and uphill, that acknowledgement gives a new energy and gets us thinking about how to tackle the next challenge. It doesn’t always have to be big end-of-project events: celebrating the small wins can be done in many creative ways. Have lunch together, write up a “Lessons learned” or “Best practice” note; create a case study. Whatever we do, we need to make sure to showcase to the organisation what we’ve achieved!

And just like that, the race is over. But we know that the speed of innovation and technology is relentless, and it won’t be long before we are facing our next challenge. Good luck!

If you would like to know more about how Synthesis can assist your cloud journey, and support you in getting fit for Cloud, please contact [email protected]