Driving change to the Cloud

There are only three things that are certain in life: tax, death, and change. For the first two, I cannot really help. Concerning the third, let’s look at it in the context of the cloud.

There are many books and methodologies on change management. This topic is driven by the fact that any change is difficult and yet inevitable. What interests us here is the perceived change by the user, not the change on the IT side. Certainly, the cloud will introduce many disruptions in the management of computer systems. ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), a set of best practices in the management of IT services, defines change management and the cloud is not different from any other changes. It will generate the needs for new skills, new procedures, and new processes. The cloud will generate new questions, as we have seen over the previous pages. It will, therefore, be necessary to integrate this into the change management of IT.

The user at the center

On the user side, it is possible that the cloud is painless and odorless. But it’s unlikely. The cloud, as we have seen so far, introduces new uses: mobility, security, confidentiality, compliance, etc. As a result, it generates or must generate, new reflexes, new practices and the use of new tools. This will change the daily lives of the users.

An aspect found in almost all cloud projects: the technology and its appropriation by the users are always faster in the personal than the professional field. For example, you get a new smartphone for your birthday. You will connect it to the Internet, download applications and exchange information quickly and without asking too many questions. You will probably develop new habits. And then quickly, you’re going to want to connect this device to your corporate network. And, depending on the rules in place, you will, or not, be able to continue to use your phone as before. The questions of encryption, identification, confidentiality, data leakage, information sharing, etc. need to be answered and will certainly have to make you quickly change the habits that you had developed to adopt the one that your company will impose on you. Change can then be experienced as a constraint and potentially lead to circumvention of the rules. We see this every day!

How then to make a change as painless as possible, and adopted? Without going into the details of the many existing methodologies of change management, which is not the topic of this post, it is important to understand and implement the stages of change management. I use here the ADKAR method of Prosci, as I was able to see it at work on Cloud projects carried out by Microsoft Consulting Services.

Driving change works!

In its 2016 study on best practices in change management, Prosci demonstrated that:

  • 94% of projects accompanied by a change management approach were successful against 15% otherwise, a factor of 6!
  • The first contributor to the success of a project was the sponsorship of the management team, just before the structured approach to change.
  • 90% of change management practitioners believe that integrating the culture of the company is crucial to the success of any project.

For having lived many successful and failed projects, change management is not an infinitely complex science, but to ignore it is the number one reason for failure. Between 94% and 15%, the choice does not even exist. Change management will slow the implementation of the necessary changes and will have a cost but compared to the financial and organizational cost of a failure, the winner is obvious! So, what needs to be done? Three main steps:

  1. Preparing Change
  2. Managing Change
  3. Reinforcing change

You will find in my book Private, Hybrid, and Public Clouds the details of these three steps. Here is a preview to start thinking about it in a context of migration to the cloud.

Preparing for Change

You migrate to the cloud. So you know what’s going to change, both from the BackOffice and the FrontOffice sides. Ask yourself the questions of repercussions in the organization, the ones that users are going to ask facing this new environment! The idea is to make the most faithful representation possible of what the users are going to face.

Change anticipated as positive, such as working from home, may be perceived as negative, end of work-life balance for instance. It is therefore very important to understand the outline of the future change and to predict its effects.

It is also important to have a change sponsor, at the top of the organization if possible. The change must be perceived as desired and coming from the top and supported by the users. The latter must understand the benefits. We need to include representatives from the preparation phase to limit the resistance that will show up along the way.

Managing change

Change management is about everything that needs to happen before, during and after. There are usually three main axes:

  • Communication. The HR team, the computer, and the sponsor must communicate on the change: What is the cloud, what are the benefits for the users and the company, how the change will happen, etc. Any change is difficult. By proactively communicating, we reduce anxiety and increase membership.
  • Training. It’s critical. Training on new tools, new procedures, etc. In addition to the training plan, a coaching plan can be put in place to make custom training. Referents make it possible to decentralize the workload and to solve the difficulties directly.
  • Accompanying the resistance. Some people will resist. Train them more, Coach them more, Deploy more pedagogy.

Strengthening change

Change never stops. The leopard cannot change its spots, is one of the maxims that must be kept in mind. To find out if the change is taking place in the organization, we will have to establish measures of this change and confront them with the objectives set. Then occasionally redo these measures to check the progress and the absence of relapse.

The cloud brings a lot of positive benefits, but also doubts and fears. Strengthening change is about ensuring long-term effects, in the form of correction, coaching and celebration.

The transition to the cloud must be accompanied. Get help from competent people. Change is an integral part of the project, even if, at first glance, it does not seem to impact for users. Adherence to compliance standards such as GDPR, for example, has no direct impact on daily operations but can have a massive impact on behaviors and questions posed by users. Change is never trivial, bring everyone along with you!

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

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