Struggling to reach the cloud

The following blog post was written by one of our guest bloggers – Murph Krajewski. Murph has been with Interactive Intelligence for almost 10 years and is a current member of our Technical Sales team.

I’m just wrapping up the week at the ACCE event down in beautiful (and hot) New Orleans.  My role at these events is to represent our company on the exhibit hall floor, so I have a somewhat limited perspective of the goings-on in terms of speakers, classes and sessions.  What I DO get to have, though, are very candid conversations with people who are in the trenches of their particular call centers.  These are the ones who are managing the queues, forecasting and generating schedules for their workers, listening and watching recordings of calls, and running (or trying to run, or begging SQL admins to write) reports. 

As a vendor, I have a small arsenal of politely inquisitive questions that I employ to get people talking about their particular situation.  In my case, of course, the goal is to help generate sales, but apart from that motive I was able to see some trends evolve between otherwise unrelated companies.  There are things that organizations are struggling with on a common level, and one of the most common is the burning question, “should we put our call center in the cloud?”

That one question contains a multitude of facets, too.  I was fortunate enough to attend a single panel discussion, and it happened to deal with this exact question.  Several of the facets were explored and examined.  Several shared their experiences in current struggles, past successes or failures, and research that they had read.  The facet that struck me most, though, was getting IT teams on board with the idea of putting such a critical system as the call center in the cloud.  I sat in a room with about 25 people (many, if not all of whom were call center managers) and listened to the collective groan that went up when the topic of IT resistance came up.

Another piece of personal info – I have 8 years under my belt as an IT guy before I made the switch to my current role.  I still feel a kindred spirit with the IT guys, and so I wanted to share a couple of thoughts on their behalf since the general populous tended to dread or avoid involving their IT staff in the cloud-migration.

First, and I think most basic, is the psychology of the IT profession.  For decades now, we have driven the IT staff to “hold the line” and “guard the fort” against hackers.  Employ stronger encryption.  Provide users with complete and total access from anywhere they want to go, but don’t let anything bad happen.  For the most part, technology has evolved and provided a lot of tools to make these things possible, but what has also evolved is the IT guy’s sense of identity.  It’s almost like Jack Nicholson’s stirring representation of Gitmo while he’s on trial at the end of “A Few Good Men.”  The IT guys have built a wall around the enterprise, and now they’re the guardians of it.  They stand on that wall with a gun and quietly defend the fortress while the rest of the folks inside do their jobs.  It could literally be seen as a virtual turf war.  “You can’t hack MY network,” is what we’ve trained our IT guys to shoot for, and bravo to most of them who’ve managed to make that a reality.

Then you come to the IT guys one day and they say, “You’re planning to do WHAT!? Move the call center into the CLOUD, are you crazy?  What about encryption, what about local control, who owns the database, we don’t know the people running their data center, we can’t walk over to their desk and ask them if they saw LOST last night, what if they don’t run as tight a ship as we do, what about disaster recovery,” and on, and on….  You see, in some respects, moving to the cloud is a direct contradiction to the very personas we’ve all molded our IT guys into.  Of course there’s going to be resistance.  There are absolutely some scary things to face and address.  Change isn’t easy, but it is necessary, and this is one that should be handled delicately but confidently.  Which brings me to my second thought.

Include your IT staff early.  There’s a certain comfort level that is reached gradually through the process of making this decision.  If you have taken time to ruminate on the idea of heading to the cloud, then it’s likely you’ve answered your own set of tough questions and found good enough answers to feel comfortable with the idea.  If you include your IT staff early, that list of tough questions will grow… in a good way.  Remember, these are the guys who’ve been holding the lines for years now.  They have experience.  They’ve seen troubles come up, and have defended against them.  That’s valuable!  You WANT to include that perspective when making the early decisions because, frankly, holding the line hasn’t become any less important.  If anything, it becomes increasingly more important year over year.  These are the questions that you need to ask your cloud vendors, and those vendors should have answers ready.

The point is, IT guys are in the somewhat inconvenient place of having to create a simultaneously flexible and secure environment.  It seems to me that theirs is a viewpoint that’s critical to the migration.