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A People-first Perspective to Cloud Migration

A People-first Perspective to Cloud Migration
September 23, 2020

Digital transformation has long been considered to be an imperative for enterprises. It is high time for initiatives such as cloud migration to take center stage. But have you considered the impact beyond the data? A cloud migration fundamentally changes the way your IT organization works and interacts with the business. Here are some non-technical questions to ask before undertaking this kind of initiative:

  • Have we started talking about the cloud migration as part of a broader business transformation?
  • Is the leadership aware of the short- and long-term competitive advantages that moving to the cloud brings (such as a DevOps model, real-time collaborative work environments, and Agile structures)?
  • How will we shift the team from supporting servers to maintain software and applications in the cloud? What kind of upskilling would be needed?
  • Have we prepared for an Agile way of working enabled by a cloud environment? How will the business and IT work differently?
  • Have our end users been informed of the collaboration opportunities?

What do the questions above have in common? Cloud migrations are steeped in people-centric implications.

It does not matter if you are planning for lift and shift, app mobilization, or remove and replace. Once the implementation happens, you are in the cloud and previous ways of working are no longer appropriate.

Post cloud migration, many of the previous ways of working are no longer applicable.

By considering the following organizational change management principles you are prepared to manage the risk of people-centric implications:

  1. Build a stakeholder coalition of transformers

    A stakeholder coalition of transformers is an action-oriented leadership team committed to understanding, inspiring, overcoming, reinventing, and engaging the organization through a transformation. They understand how to gain buy-in and engage the employee base throughout the change. Effective transformers create environments where communication is constant, questions are welcomed, and employees reserve the right to experiment while iterating through change.

    Ideally, you have this group assembled before any formal announcements of the cloud migration. Transformers need to be connected to the overall project vision, and a shared understanding of the short- and long-term benefits. You also want a clear statement which says that the cloud migration is enabling a broader business transformation.

    Take this group of transformers. They are on the journey of building the future-state vision based on the benefits a cloud migration brings. Such a vision will include, for example, how operations will experience collaborative virtual workspaces, which increases agility and the speed of delivering value to the business.

    Upfront collaboration with transformers gets them vested in the storyline of why change is needed. If you are not sure who the transformers are in your organization, reach out to other senior leaders, your HR executive(s), and/or an organizational change management specialist. Any one of them should be able to help you identify who meets the criteria within the organization.

  2. Develop a compelling story for your change

    The coalition of transformers needs a consistent message to build credibility. Leaders and other stakeholders get behind a digital transformation initiative if they buy-in to the “why”. Consider your own personal preference­— would you like to be told what to do in a “because I said so!” manner or would you like to understand the mission, vision, and desired outcomes, so you can consciously connect to the request? Most choose the latter.

    That is why it is important to have a future vision statement that is easy to share, aligns to the organization’s mission, and is relevant for all stakeholders to get behind. The story allows the coalition of transformers to take the critical step of sharing the story and bringing their teams along on the journey.

    Upon the launch of your transformation efforts, you want all stakeholders to know where the organization is going and why. If you set the stage that this is a business transformation, you need stakeholder engagement not only for the cloud migration, but also for the new ways of working that the cloud migration will require. You will need stakeholder commitment, and not simply compliance, which comes with stakeholders understanding the benefits and buying into the vision.

    Make sure the coalition of transformers produces a case for change that is broad enough to do three things:

    1. Span all phases of the cloud migration
    2. Involve the compelling customer- and employee-centric storyline(s)
    3. Give purpose and meaning to the workforce and other stakeholders

    You need a message that is easily referenced when the transformers aren’t around and decisions have to be made. Employees should be able to recall the purpose and use it to guide their day-to-day actions.

  3. Evaluate all human-centered design structures to enable adoption

    The Harvard Business Review article, “To Get People to Change, Make Change Easy”, notes that if you make the new way of working easier, employees’ adoption rates increase.

    A human-centered design approach to a cloud migration prepares for:

    • The organizational design needed to start the digital transformation
    • The culture change and shift in employee experience that a greater collaborative technology demands (What’s the structure for an Agile way of working enabled by a cloud environment? How will the business and IT work differently?)
    • A determination of who will maintain software and applications in the cloud vs. on servers, and whether they have the necessary skills
    • An upskilling approach aligned to talent development and workforce planning, if necessary

    It is important that you think through the people-centered structure requirements that enable adoption of new mindsets and ways of working for holistic digital transformation.

  4. Bring together the organizational change management (OCM) framework to realize benefits

    The physical migration to the cloud is dependent on the engineers’ ability to support software and apps in a new environment. Realizing the benefits of this investment means that IT and the business must interact differently. If the change feels forced, the workforce typically struggles to adopt new ways of interacting, problem-solving, and decision-making. The whole point of moving to the cloud is to solve and decide more effectively.

    We need to prepare the workforce by sharing the why, what, and how in chunks and over time. Small doses and repetition give employees a chance to accept, experiment, discover, and invest in how their work life will change. The risks of not bringing them along on this journey include attrition, redundancy, and budget overruns.

    To achieve commitment to the cloud migration and the overall business transformation, you must integrate a change management work stream into your roadmap via an OCM framework. By centering your OCM efforts on partnerships (top-down, bottom-up, and across work streams) and using the correct OCM accelerators, you will realize greater business benefits.

    Some examples of integrated OCM accelerators include:

    • Culture integration and considerations
    • Leadership alignment (such as the already-addressed transformation coalition)
    • Change management planning
    • Learning strategy
    • Talent retention and engagement
    • Sustainability

    Integrating the adoption accelerators supports engaging the critical mid-level management group and the individual contributor workforce. If you get several fired-up mid-level managers that share the benefits of the collaboration opportunities, it can make a tremendous difference among the broader workforce’s readiness and adoption rates.

    Ultimately, your cloud migration is about more than moving data. It’s about how to move the organization to a new future state. Achieving the outcomes you desire requires two things— an inspiring group of leaders that will get the organization ready and a strong technical team that knows how to integrate with the adoption track. Combining these two will help your organization achieve the digital transformation required to keep your business ahead of customer and market needs.