Make A Smoother Cloud Transformation

Published on February 20, 2018 - LinkedIn - Sam Bignell

Only 26% of organisations say their transformation has been very or completely successful, according to McKinsey. Those odds are daunting for agencies who are contemplating a move to the cloud. However, these disheartening results happen when the project fails to account for the common sticking points in a transformation – sticking points that often fall outside the narrow realm of a technology upgrade. By addressing these issues before the project begins, organisations can double their success rate and avoid common traps that can halt a digital transformation.

Potential Barriers

The most common rough patch projects can run into is a lack of knowledge. Cloud is a relatively new and ever-evolving area of technology and specialisation, and so gaps exist in the current technology and how much agencies know about that technology. This lack of knowledge can interfere in two ways:

Between the internal IT team and supplier

If a organisation’s internal team knowledge is lacking, it can create sticking points between the agency and the supplier. The time that could be spent discussing progress can be taken up with time spent educating the IT team, which can push deadlines and take up resources.

Between the internal IT team and wider business

A lack of knowledge or difficulty communicating it can also have strategic ramifications for the digital transformation. The scope of the project can be difficult to define if the proper level of knowledge doesn’t exist in the business. Organisations might not realise how much benefit will result in moving all applications to the cloud, rather than just one.

The other common sticking point in transitioning to the cloud is the appearance and management of technical debt. Technical debt is an inevitability for any agency  – it’s the discrepancy between the current state, and the cost of completely bringing the technology up to date. Time spent not updating technology accrues ‘interest’ payments: extra effort needed to fix and upgrade systems. Existing technical debt, like out-of-date systems, misplaced data, and scattered records can stop a project in its tracks as overcoming it is too hard, and too costly. Of course, this only accrues more technical debt.

Overcoming Barriers

The first step to making a clear transformation is to properly allocate senior leadership personnel to the project. Transformation doesn’t happen part-time – it needs full-time attention. Senior leadership need to be educated on what the change entails, be committed to the innovation, champion the vision, and help execute the change by coordinating people.

Senior champions can also help broker compromises that might otherwise result in impasses within the business. For example, their senior position can mediate between concerns about the budget running over, from the CFO, and concerns about the solution not being thorough enough, from the CIO.

The second step is creating cloud champions at all levels. A common occurrence is getting senior leadership who have an agenda for radical change, but lower employees lack the motivation or understanding to complete that agenda. That motivation for change fizzles out. Digital transformation therefore needs a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches to change.

A useful way of thinking about organisational change is that it’s similar to the way mobile phone signals transmit over a country – signals are sent to base stations which wirelessly transmit information to mobiles and tablets. Without enough base stations for an area, the signal degrades.

The same process happens with company information distribution. There needs to be people at all levels to make sure the change happens. To address this, nominate cloud champions by how close their contact is with key parts of the organisation. Important middle management, senior team leaders, and mid-weight members should all spend more time being educated, as then they can educate others.

Technical Debt Assessment

Technical debt is challenging to solve, and the best approach if the organisation is not experienced in transformation is to get outside advice. Managing technical debt is highly individual, and depends on the level of functionality that the organisation requires. For guidance on how to implement a cloud strategy, Veritec has a discovery service that covers overcoming, addressing, or managing technical debt. For more experienced organisations:

  • Identify what can be left behind and replaced by other applications.
  • Identify what can be modernised or even rebuilt.
  • Identify technical debt that has the potential to become valuable intellectual property. Is there a possible solution or innovation that can be monetised?
  • Determine a backlog priority for migration. Start the transition with applications that have manageable technical debt and provide immediate value once delivered and managed in a cloud environment. For example, applications that have been suffering from a lack of high availability or perform poorly under high load are top candidates for cloud adoption.

Education

Identifying company education needs is the next step. The questions to ask are:

  • Who will be affected by the digital transformation, and what are their information needs? Are there external partners like vendors that need to be updated on the use of cloud and the operating model?
  • How much do staff, partners, and vendors already know about the subject?
  • What is the best way to teach them? Bring the company up to a basic level of knowledge, educate key people and wait for knowledge to trickle down, or both?

List out estimates of how much knowledge all parties already have to see the level of education needed. Then, allocate education time based on level of importance. The IT department and nominated cloud champions may need an intensive week of education, while the rest of the company might only need a few hours.   

The answers to those questions and knowledge estimates will create the education strategy. Committing to rapid staff development and and training will mean your transition gains momentum and isn’t plagued by technical hurdles.

The Size of Change

The last step in the process is deciding the scale of the change. Once the company has been educated on the scope of the project, they can decide on how large the level of change will be. There are several philosophies on how to adjust the size of changes. Organisations can choose to start small by moving a non-business critical application to the cloud. This allows teams to test processes, spot potential issues, and learn how to implements cloud solutions. The approach also reveals areas where things might go wrong on a larger scale, minimising critical errors. However, projects that are too small in scale don’t spot the problems with larger application changes.

If the project is too large, however, organisations run the risk of falling into the 74% of failed or unsatisfactory transformations. The choice is dependant on the size of the organisation and the level of knowledge in the employees. The more employees know about the cloud, the safer a large project is to complete.

Digital transformation is challenging for the reason that it entails more than a hardware update – it means a whole new way of operating and thinking about tech solutions. If companies aren’t prepared for this, they’re up for a rocky road to change.

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