5 Keys to finding the right Managed Service Provider
June 12, 2015
Are you ready for the Cloud?
December 2, 2014
I know what most of you are thinking… Of course we are ready for the cloud, many of our IT systems have been cloud-based for years. I am not talking about the low-hanging fruit like websites, email, spam-protection, and backup. That functionality can be moved in stealth, without impacting the user experience. The readiness that I am speaking of is the transition of technology that is more disruptive to the user experience. This is the reason many organizations are either holding back or stuck in transition. A common response to conversations about transitioning to the cloud is simply that "the Cloud is not for us", we cannot have our critical systems in some Amazon or Microsoft datacenter, who knows where. The concept that is lost, "the Cloud" is not a where, it’s a how. How do we access our business systems easily, efficiently, from any device and from any place. The where could be exactly where your systems exist today.
So what is the real reason "the Cloud isn’t for you”?
Change is not easy for people in general. I am not just talking about Digital Foreigners either, even the most adept Digital Natives can struggle with change, especially when mixed into our already hectic work lives. Fear of change is the biggest factor in halting these projects. The technology is sound, has all of the collaboration, ubiquitous access, and work efficiencies one could ask for. It is not the technology that is the issue, it is user behavior that is not ready to accept it. This probably sounds like I am blaming users, which is completely not the case. It’s the manner in which these projects are approached and implemented that is the problem. You have to understand, educate, and change user behavior before you can implement a transitional change. The purpose of technology is to make what you already do more efficient or less expensive. To effectively implement or change technology you must first change the users behavior or business process that currently exist. Otherwise, you will be left with frustrated users and partially adopted technology. Implementing without changing the behavior first defeats the concept of adopting technology to enhance users abilities in the first place.
How do I change behavior before I implement technology?
You must first understand what the behavior is.
Make sure the technology supports the desired behavior.
Don’t rush the change.
Give them what they need to be successful.
Leaders to support the change
Understanding user behavior is harder than it sounds. You need to map the processes, work flows, information flows, business rules and document them. Start with the origins, where you are coming from, where are you going, what are you using today, and how are you working together. Even the act of saving documents and collaborating with peers has workflow associated with them. Understanding user behavior will not only assist the organization moving forward but identify areas to increase efficiency. Surveying your users is key; understanding their needs, requirements, and challenges. This gives the users a voice which at times they might feel is not heard. Too often this is done post technology selection or sadly not even at all. A very curious dynamic exists in our world, we look at specifications or reviews without understanding our own organizational needs and challenges. Understanding these needs and challenges is the first step in preparing for a full cloud migration. Then change user behavior to one that will overcome these challenges and integrate natively into these transitioning technologies.
No rushing is allowed when transitioning your organization. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither will this change in thought process. Avoid the waterfall approach, think sprints. That sounds pretty project management centric, however it’s an organizational thought process that needs to be embraced. Fostering a patient approach allows you to learn from the process, adapt your approach, improve the experience, and in general have a more dynamic impact. Piloting of technologies is a component of the patient approach that is a key to success of these projects. This gives your people an opportunity to try it, play with it, and be a part of the change. This allows people to be change agents instead of stalwarts. You want to develop people who will embrace change, help identify the roadblocks in transition, and ultimately be your champions. Not everyone will assimilate peacefully, you will meet resistance and objections to change. Many organizations hide these users and avoid the feedback they offer. This is a mistake, they have valuable information, even if buried in negative context. Give people a voice to speak their concerns, give them a chance to be a part of the process, and then give them the tools to be successful no matter what.
The best tool for success is training… training… training… If you are going to ask your workforce to adapt to new technologies you need to ensure their saws are sharp. Use the pilot process to identify areas in which people need training, areas in which people are not demonstrating a readiness for the change, and focus your training plans there. Keep the training sessions small, short, and interactive is a recipe for success. However, training sessions alone are not the extent of it, you need to back them up with support materials and lifelines for help. These lifelines can be project champions, technology specialists, or support staff well trained themselves in the technology. This is another avenue in which well-organized piloting will show benefits, champions are born. If you are lucky, several are born in your organization, supporting and moving the organization forward. This newly created technical leadership and training environment will ensure your people are primed for success.
Speaking of leadership, they need to be bought-in. If they are opting out of the process or maintaining existing behavior the project will never arrive at a truly successful outcome. Leadership needs to be onboard and agents for change. If the "Cloud" technologies are used by the very top of the organization the odds of success are exponentially increased. I have seen organizations where leaders adopted the "Cloud" to share information, conduct meetings, and enhance workflows experience significant efficiency improvements.
Seems like a lot of work… Is it worth it? To make your organization more efficient, scalable, and collaborative. Provide easy access to critical business systems, is that not why we want the "Cloud". My impressions is that most feel that a change is worth it, but are starring at a significant hurdle, even though change is inevitable. There is a white lining in this heavy lifting. Done right your organization will capitalize on technology and experience a positive cultural shift. Project Champions and Advocates are additional layers of leadership and support for your organization. Changing user behavior removes in-efficiencies that exist and creates higher understanding of the work-force. Training empowers users and fosters a healthy culture for your employees. This becomes a paradigm shift for your organization, improved technology and empowered users.