Compared to traditional on-premises solutions, cloud platforms enable companies to be more flexible and scale faster to meet changing market dynamics. In addition, cloud-based technologies remove many of the resourcing and cost burdens associated with maintaining on-premises hardware and applications. As a result, IT teams are freed to focus on innovations that drive differentiation and ultimately fuel company growth. However, a global cloud transformation is a complex undertaking and the need for preparation and planning should not be under-estimated.
Like any global project, it is imperative that your cloud-based transformation aligns with both a clear executive vision and key business processes. Equally, it’s important to remember that technology is just an enabler - not the end game. In our experience consulting to thousands of companies globally, Bluewolf has repeatedly found that a successful cloud transformation depends on successful employee engagement. This can be achieved by first spending time on the front lines with your users to properly understand their needs and then investing in a comprehensive change strategy to help people at all levels of your organisation embrace the new technologies and processes once they are implemented.
Follow these six steps to make your global cloud transformation a success:
1. Establish clear goals and metrics
Make sure you know why you want to move to the cloud. Write down the business goals that you need to support. The more specific the goal, the easier it will be to design appropriate processes, e.g., increase revenue by 10 per cent within two quarters. Do not move forward until you have defined these goals in cooperation with the business.
2. Consider your company’s dynamics
How does your company operate on a global scale? Does it use a centralised or decentralised model? Identify any regional needs and note how they may differ from corporate standards. This will help to define a method to execute. On a global scale, it typically makes sense to adopt an iterative approach to implementation, to maintain focus and so learnings from each region can be applied elsewhere.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Change can lead to confusion, so build a strong business case and get buy-in from stakeholders right across the organization up-front. Even amongst regions that speak the same language, business and cultural differences can be stark, so take the time to communicate with and listen to representatives from every country. Ongoing communication is arguably the biggest challenge – and opportunity – of a global cloud transformation. Consider enrolling a partner in your company’s marketing communications team to share their expertise and lend support.
4. Create a cloud governance strategy
First, companies must ensure that any move to a global cloud doesn't breach the rules or laws under which they operate, e.g., privacy and data handling compliance. Second, companies need a framework for prioritising cloud-driven innovation ideas. Unlike traditional governance frameworks, the policies and processes of cloud governance enable IT and business stakeholders to rapidly assess and prioritise innovation ideas that deliver the most value – optimising differentiation and ROI.
5. Put the right team in place
As with any IT project, talent is a huge factor in the success of a global cloud transformation. To that end, identify the in-house talent you'll need for key roles, but also consider how you can benefit from an elastic workforce – an ecosystem of independent contractors, consulting firms, managed services and other third party partners that can support changing resourcing demands over the course of your implementation. With IT investments shifting from maintenance of on-premises systems to innovation, on-demand access to high-calibre talent is more critical than ever.
6. Don’t skimp on change management
The buy-in of end-users will make or break your cloud transformation, so invest in them. Especially on a global scale, change management cannot be an optional extra or an after-thought. Strong education and coaching programs are necessary to build advocacy from the ground-up – and get users from across the world involved in your project before you start deploying. Adapt the technologies to their business processes and needs, not the other way around. And don't assume that one approach can be used across the globe. Cultural differences, languages and regional needs are likely to demand different change strategies, so seek inputs from all regions during the planning phase.
Patrick Bulacz is the practice lead of services Bluewolf ANZ.