AWS Cloud Enterprise Strategy Blog

The Importance of Talent in Your Transformation

I’m very fortunate to be able to spend time with leaders from companies that are focused on transforming their business. There are many organizations that are using technology to do this, and I can think of few that are doing this better or more aggressively than Capital One.

Drew Firment, who has been leading parts of Capital One’s journey, recently published a post that speaks to the importance of talent in any transformation effort, and includes some tips for how leaders should be thinking bringing their talent along for the ride. His post dives a bit deeper into some of the points I wrote about in You Already Have the People You Need to Succeed with the Cloud, and Drew was kind enough to let me post a teaser to his post below for the followers of this collection.

I’ll be continuing to look for guest posts from thought leaders on modern day transformation efforts, so if you have something you’d like to share about your Journey, I’d love to hear about it!


Talent Transformation is Really the Hardest Part of Cloud Adoption

We have a strategic imperative for a pretty dramatic transformation of our technology capabilities as a company. And this is a transition from being a company with an IT organization or an IT shop to really being a technology-led company. The hardest part of that transition is really a talent transformation. — Rob Alexander, CIO of Capital One

Becoming a Cloud Fluent Enterprise

Operating in the cloud is a paradigm shift for organizations. The transition is difficult, requiring a different mindset and a new set of skills. The effort and investment required to transform talent is significant.

The key to cloud adoption is a talent transformation program that enables cloud fluency across your entire organization. Establishing a common language amongst a critical mass is foundational to your success.

Once a critical mass of individuals acquire the new skills and learn how to operate differently, the enterprise can begin to take full advantage of the reliability, security, performance, and cost benefits provided in the cloud.

Talent Transformation is a Shared Responsibility

The first set of lessons is geared toward the foundational responsibilities of the enterprise, the second section is targeted toward the Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE), and the final lessons are focused on individual accountability.

To accelerate your organization’s journey, consider incorporating these elements into a formal talent transformation program.

Foundational Elements of Enterprise Transformation

Clear intent will drive purposeful action resulting in desired outcomes.

#1 Where’s Your Destination & Why Are You Going?

Migrating to the cloud is often referred to as a “journey”. While it may seem obvious, many enterprises struggle to articulate exactly “where” they are going and “why” they are taking the trip.

The result is a meandering caravan of companies spending a lot of time and energy following each other to nowhere.

Before embarking on the journey, communicate a set of clear and compelling cloud imperatives that provide a roadmap for your enterprise.

Are you reducing costs through the elimination of physical data centers? Streamlining your delivery pipeline? Improving your site reliability? Building market differentiating products that exploit the elasticity of the cloud? Know your “where and why”, then clearly communicate that vision to the organization.

Once the destination is set, the organization can then work to define outcome-based execution plans with clear intent and measures.

#2 What Do You Need for The Journey & How Are You Getting There?

Asyou embark on the cloud journey, you’ll want to clearly define the “what” and “how” of operating in the cloud so the organization understands your specific operational and security controls. I refer to these company-specific rules of the road as “isms”, often driven by internal policies or external regulatory requirements.

Similar to traffic laws that govern a road trip, there are usually a few layers of abstraction that simplify the consumption of your cloud controls. While a detailed set of guidelines for operating in the cloud is necessary, handing individuals a large volume of policies will end-up in the glovebox alongside the driving manual provided by the department of motor vehicles.

Consider making the most critical controls visible and easily understood, similar to speed limit signs and traffic lights. Start with a simple set of “must” controls, and focus on mastering the basics to build confidence and competence throughout the organization.

#3 Who is Driving?

With the destination set and the rules of the road understand, the results will be driven by your people. Empowering individuals with the right skills and situational awareness will put your organization on the right road to achieving the desired outcomes.

Establish clear expectations with the organization using refreshed job descriptions. Collaborate with impacted teams to define the new roles, and the identify the skill sets required to operate in the cloud.

This exercise will offer transparency, alleviate FUD, and provide clear purpose when building outcome-based training plans.

The Transformational Role of the Cloud Center of Excellence

A well structured programmatic approach drives individual engagement.

#4 Establish a Common Learning Cadence for the Enterprise

For larger organizations, consider grouping individuals into training cohorts that experience the program together. Synchronize the delivery of their training material over an extended period of time by using a common learning cadence.

For example, establish a 3-month cloud education program that is broken into 2-week sprints. Each sprint contains training stories that relate to particular feature, or topic, such as compute or storage. The sprint stories might include segments of courseware to watch, a targeted hands-on lab, and supplemental reading material.

At the end of each sprint, conduct a training retrospective or facilitate an ‘explain and explore’ session. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss how your company “isms” relate to the training material. Rotate the facilitator every session to provide participants an opportunity to contribute equally to the learning community.


For 6 more tips from Drew, check out the post on his blog here.

Stephen Orban

Stephen Orban

Stephen is the GM (General Manager) of a new AWS service under development, and author of the book “Ahead in the Cloud: Best Practices for Navigating the Future of Enterprise IT” Stephen spent his first three-and-a-half years with Amazon as the Global Head of Enterprise Strategy, where he oversaw AWS’s enterprise go-to-market strategy, invented and built AWS’s Migration Acceleration Program (MAP), and helped executives from hundreds of the world’s largest companies envision, develop, and mature their IT operating model using the cloud. Stephen authored Ahead in the Cloud so customers might benefit from many of the best practices Stephen observed working with customers in this role. Prior to joining AWS, Stephen was the CIO of Dow Jones, where he introduced modern software development methodologies and reduced costs while implementing a cloud-first strategy. These transformational changes accelerated product development cycles and increased productivity across all lines of business, including The Wall Street Journal,, Dow Jones Newswires, and Factiva. Stephen also spent 11 years at Bloomberg LP, holding a variety of leadership positions across their equity and messaging platforms, before founding Bloomberg Sports in 2008, where he served as CTO. Stephen earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from State University of New York College at Fredonia.