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How to build a culture for successful cloud transformation

How to build a culture for successful cloud transformation
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Blackboard)

Digital transformation provides the means for businesses to survive in a complex, new world. It forms part of a broader push to drive new revenue opportunities and growth through cloud services because it's perceived that businesses with a digital core are more efficient, agile, and responsive to market needs. We find that customer experience and digital transformation are inextricably linked, with digital channels driving more engaging and transparent customer interactions. In an increasingly competitive landscape where strong customer experience drives success, digital transformation is no longer optional.

About the author

Lee James, CTO, EMEA at Rackspace.

Transformation strategies across organisations can look similar as by their very nature, the focus is on big picture items – technologies, capabilities, and business goals. However, the specific plans need to vary widely through the expectations, priorities, needs, and types of interactions that take place between the people who directly impact how a company grows and changes.

This is where organisational culture comes into play. Cloud deployment missteps are common when organisations don’t consider culture. But when culture is considered, deployments can thrive, giving companies access to the plethora of benefits that cloud provides. 

However, cloud adoption is a complex undertaking for a business of any size. To tackle this complexity and optimize chances for a successful cloud transition, organisations need to include their employees and tap into their experiences – both personal and professional. This can be achieved by starting with three key considerations.

1. Communicate how cloud will improve processes

Few aspects of business are more motivating to employees than having a mission that matters and knowing how their contributions impact that mission. Cloud provides the strategy to delivering a company’s mission and employees needed to be taken on this journey with the business, so they feel empowered.

Employees need to understand their organisation’s identity in order to be able to deliver results. Businesses can achieve this by taking an employee-centric approach to cloud adoption. Instead of outright mandating a cloud transition, staff should be brought along each step of the journey from the beginning. This gives them perspective and context while letting them know that the cloud deployment is not happening to them, it’s happening with them.

Central to this proactive approach is a comprehensive communication plan, the goal of which is to gain buy-in. Messaging must connect and resonate with employees because when they buy into business plans, they are more likely to embrace the transformation. This, in turn, often helps bring other employees on board.

It is also important to remember that although we often hear people talking about digital transformation as if it were one big project run across the whole organisation, this is far from the case. Digital transformation by its very nature is characterized by fragmentation. This is because the purpose of digital transformation is to support new technologies that drive more engaging, transparent, and targeted customer interactions. For example, we often see digital transformation projects start in a particular business unit to develop a new business application that serves a particular customer segment.

While there will inevitably be fragmentation, we can’t confuse this with a lack of collaboration, which is necessary to successful digital transformation. Different parts of the business will start projects at different times and subsequently operate in silos, but the key is in acknowledging this fragmentation.

A way to break down silos and foster collaboration is to bring all business units together with everyone on the same page when it comes to the central product offering and the end goal. Cross-collaboration across teams can be encouraged on a regular basis by understanding each individual business unit’s needs for successful transformation. Another way to bring everyone along on the same journey is to clearly outline how the cloud will impact work, including improvements to workflow, benefits to customers, and overall business growth.

2. Build a team to champion cloud strategy

There’s no denying the power of teamwork in today’s organisations. That’s why teams are the default working unit in most successful companies. Working together, people cooperate and collaborate to accomplish clear goals that benefit their company, customers, and themselves.

Cloud strategies will succeed with the right team. Instead of building a team that’s “best for the cloud”, organisations should build a team that is best for their company’s culture — including the way people work, the customers’ needs, and the way products and services are brought to market. This means creating a team with skills that may not be obvious.

One source of inspiration for IT management looking to build an effective cloud team can be found in video gaming. Take the game Fortnite, for example. The central principles of Fortnite — collaboration, individuality, and speed — are exactly what needs to be embedded in the structure of a cloud team. While traditional games focus on instant gratification through immediate wins, Fortnite encourages longer-term strategies by requiring teams to test how to best work together and build up to a win.

One way to identify team members who possess the ideal traits and skills for successful long-term cloud deployment is by meeting with managers and referring to employee reviews. Since smaller teams often fare better in transformation, business leaders can gain a cross-functional advantage by looking for employees who have more than one of these skills. They should meet with the team in the early stages to help them ramp up and embrace the ideal approach to the cloud strategy, ensuring they are advocates for the cultural component.

3. Design the best platform to support employee workflows

When it comes to cloud deployments, it’s critical to evaluate the organisation’s current work processes before planning the infrastructure services to support it. Among other things, a detailed analysis helps identify processes that may no longer be necessary, as well as processes that need to be added.

People are a company’s greatest asset. In an effective transformation, employees should not have to bend completely to the cloud. To achieve cultural alignment, the cloud infrastructure should be designed around the ways in which they best perform their jobs. Considering employee needs will make the transformation appealing instead of something to dread and resist.

Inclusivity is key

Transformation through a powerful cloud strategy is crucial to survival in the current and future business climate. But businesses cannot move forward without support from employees. To deploy leading-edge capabilities and gain the technological advantages the cloud delivers, organisations should bring their unique cultural characteristics into the deployment strategy — including communication, teamwork, and workflow.