The IT team at Perkins+Will used to support a sprawling SAN environment for its complex commercial-building renderings.\nWhen the Chicago-based architecture firm \u2013 which has 2,500 employees in 30 locations around the world \u2013 outgrew its SAN environment, Perkins+Will chose to migrate away from on-premises data centers and edge devices to a cloud-based storage system. Suddenly CIO Murali Selvaraj faced a difficult challenge: How to restructure the firm's 50-person global IT organization to meet the needs of the hybrid cloud.\n\nLearn about network security\n\nHow to boost collaboration between network and security teams\nWhat\u2019s hot in network certifications\n SDN, programmable networks change the role of network engineers\nWhat network pros need to know about IoT\n\n\nThe new environment, Nasuni Cloud File Services, backed by Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), only required three full-time people, leaving the rest of IT with far more time on their hands.\n\u201cWe are not a firm that fires people willy-nilly,\u201d Selvaraj says. With no industry best practice for how to rethink staffing in this new era, Perkins+Will charted its own course, following a cultural philosophy Selvaraj sums up this way: \u201cWhen people are happy, motivated, and educated, they adapt to new technologies and we get the best out of them.\u201d His task was to reimagine IT, drawing on time- and cost-savings of hybrid cloud, to add greater benefit to the business.\nFor instance, IT can now take on \u201cinnovation projects\u201d in application, product and customer development, as well as process-oriented efforts such as onboarding of new employees and firms that come from mergers and acquisitions. \u201cWe are recalibrating from local thinking \u2013 how to make the edge devices work \u2013 to global thinking of how we can add value,\u201d he says.\nScott Terrell, CIO and senior vice president at insurance platform provider HealthMarkets in North Richland Hills, Texas, says the hybrid cloud demands that IT attain hybrid skills and take on hybrid roles.\n\u201cWe were staffed as traditional IT with development teams and infrastructure teams kept separate,\u201d he says. Now, in a hybrid environment, he finds skills are less about silos such as hard-core server configuration and more about how everyone uses cloud-based tools such as the Microsoft Azure platform to manage and monitor scalability.\nHealthMarkets started progressing towards the cloud five years ago, driven by the seasonal demands of the then newly released Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.\n\u201cWe wanted to be able to scale up for demand and scale down to control costs,\u201d Terrell says. December 15 is the highest demand day of the year, with open enrollment for the ACA sparking 10 times the usual call volume to the now cloud-based call center, while December 16 is the quietest day. \u201cI simply couldn\u2019t affordably scale the data center to handle that situation.\u201d\nThe 70-member IT team supports a hybrid environment for back-office applications as well, with the phone system and Microsoft Office365 moved to the cloud while the commission processing and administration platforms live in the data center.\n\u201cThe move to the public cloud changes the paradigm from not just how IT engineers do their work, but understanding the business behind it,\u201d says J.R. Storment, who worked with large enterprise customers for eight years as co-founder of Cloudability and helped to found the newly created, FinOps Foundation, a nonprofit trade association focused on codifying and promoting cloud financial-management best practices and standards\u00a0.\nHe believes rules, mindsets and perceptions all have to adapt to a world of operational expenditures (vs. capital expenditures) and real-time scalability (vs. lengthy procurement cycles). \u201cIt can be a painful transition because there is a tremendous amount of new knowledge that has to be understood and new skills that need to be obtained. It\u2019s a lot like drinking from a fire hose,\u201d Storment says.\nEach of these experts in cloud transformation, along with others, share their experience and advice for staffing the hybrid cloud.\nConsider the end game: full cloud or hybrid cloud?\nTo be successful at hybrid cloud, companies need to know if hybrid is a pit stop or a destination. Selvaraj considers the hybrid cloud a pit stop to full cloud transformation, while Terrell believes highly regulated industries such as healthcare for now must consider the hybrid cloud a destination.\nChristopher Gerhardt, president and managing partner at GrayBeard, a consultancy in Richmond, Va., calls the hybrid cloud \u201can illusion\u201d.\nGerhardt assumes executive roles for large IT enterprises such as gaming companies and financial institutions, on a fractional basis, and helps them make the transition to the cloud. He says hybrid environments force companies to contend with all the problems of running a data center and staffing a data center, as well as the footprint.\n\u201cYou\u2019re stuck needing new skills and old skills, so you\u2019ll never get to the full benefits of the cloud if you aren\u2019t willing to disrupt the organization,\u201d Gerhardt says. That includes disrupting the staff \u2013 a necessity if a company want to go all the way to the cloud. \u201cWorkforce transformation should never be the barrier to the cloud.\u201d\nCommunicate enterprise cloud strategy\nInstead of being deep matter experts on one layer of technology, Storment says many companies are moving IT towards product-oriented development and asking everyone to be a jack of all trades, full-stack engineers, and full-minded business leaders. \u201cThis change has to be carefully navigated, and all voices have to be at the table,\u201d he says.\nOnce Selvaraj developed a vision for how to go hybrid at Perkins+Will, he began communicating that vision to his team. \u201cIt didn\u2019t happen overnight. This has been a conversation and a journey,\u201d he says. He explained to the team that the change would free them up for more strategic activities and that what they would be doing would be perceived as more valuable to the organization. \u201c80% of the people raised their hands to sign up for this,\u201d he says.\nAt HealthMarkets, Terrell acknowledges encountering some pushback early on. \u201cOur infrastructure team was not necessarily excited about [these new] roles, which are not as hands-on with servers, storage, and the network,\u201d he says. Eventually, \u201cthey saw it as an opportunity to learn new skills and freedom from the routine maintenance that occurs in a data center.\u201d He considered it important to be upfront that individuals would no longer have exclusive control of infrastructure. \u201cOur team was able to adapt quite well,\u201d he says.\nGerhardt believes honesty is the best policy when moving to the cloud. \u201cYou\u2019ll lose the people you want to keep if you don\u2019t tell them [your plans],\u201d he says.\nEduardo Campos, co-author of \u201cFrom Problem Solving to Solution Design: Turning Ideas into Actions\u201d, agrees. \u201cYou have to bring people along and explain we are all in the same boat. You\u2019ll have to deal with bad feelings if people feel devalued,\u201d he says, especially when employees are going to be asked to re-skill, which will mean time away from their family getting trained.\nAssess cloud skills and identify gaps\nWith buy-in from chief executives, Gerhardt often takes a strident approach to skills assessment, telling IT teams that \u201cno one has a job\u201d as of the first day of the transformation. He refers everyone to Human Resources, which conducts soft and hard skills assessments. Starting out this way, he says, enables people who are anti-cloud to self-select out of the system and \u201cyou don\u2019t have to worry about them undermining you.\u201d\nIn one organization, where he was moving the ERP ecosystem to the cloud, it took six months of planning with leadership and HR and then another 18 months to complete the re-staffing. His greatest lesson learned is not to underestimate the value of employees with institutional knowledge and intellectual property expertise.\nCampos says organizations should anticipate a certain level of attrition. \u201cSome people might not want to learn new skills or change behaviors,\u201d he says. He supports the idea of partnering with HR as well as behavior experts to assess your team\u2019s ability to succeed in the cloud environment.\nSelvaraj says he conducted the one-on-one skills assessments himself and asked team members \u201cwhat piqued their interest\u201d. He was lucky in the diversity of their responses, so he didn\u2019t have to struggle with too much overlap.\nTerrell says he wants team members to be familiar with budgeting, how costs are allocated, and oversight. \u201cYes, the cloud is more affordable than the data center, but you have to be careful because you can create other problems for yourself by creating more environments. You can burn through money by having too many things going on at one time,\u201d he says. \u201cThat was a learning curve at one point and is now a skills sweet spot.\u201d\nMore often than not, Storment sees team members thrive in a cloud environment where business intelligence, analytics, and other more business-focused skills are required. With cloud, cross-team collaboration is critical because everyone has a vested interested in understanding costs and usage associated with cloud. \u201cThat never mattered before because with data center costs, on day one things like servers and storage equipment are a sunk cost,\u201d he says. \u201cWith cloud, engineers and business teams need to interact with finance around daily visibility into costs, so they can understand the impact of their spend and make better decisions together.\u201d\nHybrid cloud training and support\nSelvaraj says a lot of the budget for training came from money saved by going to the cloud. \u201cOur IT budget used to be spent at the network edge for storage, backup, data center resources, and more,\u201d he says. He was able reallocate those savings directly into staff development.\nOne key area of focus for Perkins+Will is process management. Selvaraj found the Denmark offices to have employees highly skilled in this area and sent others with \u201cthe DNA\u201d to do that work to train directly with senior staff, or \u201cchampions\u201d.\nHealthMarkets relies heavily on a development firm to help the IT team build up its skills. They started by training the newly formed development team and now those folks are training other IT staff downstream, according to Terrell. The team also used online webinars and local educational opportunities to get up to speed.\nGerhardt also depends on outside help to get IT teams but up to speed but is careful to draw them down as the internal team ramps up their own knowledge. \u201cIt might take longer to get something done at first, but I want them to learn,\u201d he says, likening the approach to an apprenticeship.\nWith cloud experts in short supply and high in cost, Storment says the Foundation provides a place where cloud leaders can learn and grow, sharing best practices between these groups regardless of where they are today because \u201cwe all have much to learn from each other.\u201d\nEarlier this year, Storment, along with foundation member companies, including Spotify, Autodesk, and Atlassian, helped develop a \u201csupport group\u201d for companies making the transition to public cloud. \u201cMembers receive high-level transformation support through the FinOps Foundation because it is an independent group of distributed IT, finance, and business leaders collaborating and sharing information so they can learn to speak the same language and make the cultural changes that are needed,\u201d he says.\nCampos says IT leaders should not overlook the need for softer skills in this hybrid environment. \u201cNot all IT engineers are prepared for this. They need social skills to understand what users are working on and communications skills to talk to cloud providers and work on service level management contracts. That\u2019s a different skill set,\u201d he says.\nThe best thing about redesigning and optimizing your staff for a hybrid environment, Terrell says, is encouraging an environment of curiosity and innovation. \u201cI tell my team, it\u2019s going to be a nonstop learning process from here to retirement, so now is a good time to learn how to learn,\u201d he says.