When you think about your organization’s cloud strategy, mindset may not be one of the first things you think about, but mindset is crucial. Adopting a cloud mindset has been called the “single most important” predictor of cloud success (Lewis, 2017, p. 44). Why? Because it is key to aligning people, processes, technology, and culture necessary for cloud transformation to take place on an enterprise-scale rather than as a one-off project with limited scope.

What is a Cloud Mindset?

Mindset refers to your set of attitudes or ways of thinking. Carol Dweck (2006), Stanford professor and popular author, defines mindset as “the view you adopt for yourself” (p.6). Although a given mindset isn’t right or wrong, some mindsets are significantly more advantageous than others in a specific context.

Take for example a top-notch engineer who has developed a reputation for personally solving difficult problems. The engineer’s stellar individual contributor mindset has enabled him to make a difference for the business and achieve success. When that engineer is promoted to manager, it may be tempting for him to stay in the same mindset and to personally solve the problems his team now encounters. That mindset won’t allow him or his team to be successful in the long run. He will need to make the switch to a manager mindset, where he is focused on helping the team develop their own capacity to solve problems.

A cloud mindset has two key components:

  1. Willingness to rethink the role of technology and how it can be leveraged across the enterprise for strategic advantage and mission fulfillment.
  2. Willingness to rethink the value proposition across the organization, considering where alignments in people, processes, and culture are needed to deliver value more effectively and efficiently.

Rethinking Technology

Rethinking technology means moving from the view of technology from static resources to dynamic service, like the difference between a noun and verb, or between a concrete example and abstract formula. One example of this trend is de-emphasizing rigid architecture in favor of infrastructure-as-code (Chung & Rankin, 2017). Cloud is an enterprise capability/system delivering compute power where and when needed to help people and the business accomplish work, not an add-on service or outsourced data center (Wyckoff & Pilat, 2017).  Cloud supercharges the speed and agility of the business, allocating and reallocating resources nearly instantaneously. Through the cloud’s scalability, there is a tremendous opportunity to move to continuous improvement/continuous delivery and try new ways of working that deliver better value to end-users – customers and employees.

Rethinking Work

Just as rigid architecture can be rethought as code, a cloud mindset enables work to be reconceptualized as data transformation and stewardship. Examples of this may include:

  • creating a document
  • monitoring a network
  • setting permission levels
  • configuring a tenant
  • collecting credit card information to securely process a transaction
  • sending an email
  • constructing a building from blueprints
  • having a conversation with a coworker

Get the right data to the right place at the right time and with the right interface so it can be used by the worker, humans, and bots. Thinking in this way can help the business identify strengths, opportunities, and blockers that can be addressed, making work more productive, cost-effective, and potentially more meaningful.

Rethinking Value Delivery

Thinking of work as data transformation and stewardship opens new ways of considering how the business delivers and can deliver value. Delivering value is dependent on the ability to move data across the organization, and technology serves to increase flow or throughput.

A cloud mindset views customers and employees as important partners, seeking to understand their experiences and striving to make their experiences better by delivering the right data to the right people at the right time in a user-friendly way. Understanding what employees and customers perceive as valuable can help business leaders make the most informed decisions.

As decisions are made, there will be tradeoffs. For example, a company that moves payroll and talent management to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) will gain organizational agility but will have to trade a certain degree of customization based on the limitations of the SaaS. Because experiences are valued, the business will ensure support is in place to navigate the tradeoffs and changes.

Rethinking Silos

Silos in organizations have gotten a bad reputation. Silos enable a clear definition of workstreams, roles, and responsibilities and promote work being done by the subject matter experts. The key is to ensure the boundary is set up so that needed data can flow into and out of the silo for productive work. A cloud mindset thinks of silo boundaries as interfaces and intentionally designs them so that data that needs to move across the interface can be shared securely. The goal is to make the interface more user friendly so that the silo does not unnecessarily slow down the movement of data needed to deliver business value.

The proliferation of cross-functional teams is one way that businesses are trying to address this, although there are limitations. Cross-functional teams can help share data across functional silos, but often processes are created within a silo. This is where the view of silo boundaries as interfaces can be especially helpful. Mapping the steps, inputs, and outputs in a process or series of processes that span functional units is a good tool to identify where interface improvements are needed to improve data throughput. Service blueprints are another option. Service blueprints visualize different components of a service (e.g., people, resources, and physical/digital artifacts) that are tied to touchpoints on a customer’s or employee’s journey.

Rethinking Culture

Organizational culture is like the operating system of the organization and refers to the collective values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that are active in the organization. Staying with the operating system metaphor, cloud transformation has trouble running in certain environments. Like with mindset, this does not mean that certain organizational cultures are better than others, but it does mean that in the context of cloud transformation, cultures can promote or hinder cloud transformation:

  • Where culture is aligned to a cloud mindset, then cloud transformation accelerates.
  • Where culture is not aligned to a cloud mindset, then there is friction.

Often, the effect is mixed, with some elements of culture aligned and others not (e.g., Fegahli, 2019). It is important to capitalize on the strengths of the current culture while overcoming friction that can stunt cloud transformation if left unaddressed through effective change management. The goal of cloud transformation is to help your organization be its best, leveraging the cloud to do so. The goal is not to turn your organization into a copy of another organization or another organization’s culture. With that said, helping the organization be receptive to and successful in cloud transformation requires addressing culture.

Configuring Your Mindset

Our experience working with federal and commercial clients and the research on successful cloud adoption points to the following settings as optimal for configuring a cloud mindset:

Setting Item
On Switch Start with the expectation to learn, grow, and iterate
Off Switch Wait to figure out all the details before starting
On Switch Views cloud as an enterprise capability/system delivering compute power where and when needed to help people and the business accomplish work
Off Switch Views cloud as an add-on service or outsourced data center
On Switch Understands that work is ultimately data stewardship/transformation
On Switch Focused on getting the right data to the right place at the right time and with the right interface so it can be used by the worker, humans, and bots
Off Switch Believes that new tools and a little training are all people need to make the transition
On Switch Knows customers and employees are important partners, values their experiences, and strives to make their experiences better
Off Switch Thinks that cloud technology should not impact the organization’s culture
On Switch Thinks that helping culture better align with delivering business value better is a key part of cloud transformation

Cloud transformation reaches all areas of the business. This includes upgrading and syncing legacy systems as well as aligning organizational structure, processes, people, culture, and leadership to unleash the benefits of the cloud at an enterprise scale. Although this is not as straightforward as configuring a tenant, it is worth it. Successful cloud transformation starts with adopting a cloud mindset and then helping the other pieces align.

Want to learn more about managing changes associated with cloud transformation? Stay tuned for my next post on the people side of transformation.


  • Chung, J. & Rankin (2017). How to manage organizational change and cultural impact during cloud transformation. SlideShare presentation.
  • Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc.
  • Feghali, R. (2019). The “Microservic-ing” of Culture. CHIPS Magazine.
  • Lewis (2017). Cloud success is about changing your mindset. NZ Business + Management. 31(6), 44-45.
  • Wyckoff A, Pilat D. Key Issues for Digital Transformation in the G20.; 2017. https://www.oecd.org/internet/key-issues-for-digital-transformation-in-the-g20.pdf.