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Jeff Townes

How to Transform Your Operating Model for the Cloud

Transform Your Operating Model

It can be tough for established organizations to embrace change, so when they start working with cloud-based technology, they’re bound to encounter hurdles. While some companies transform themselves, others lag behind. So what gives? In truth, it’s not so much about the cloud technology itself — it’s that, in order to be effective, adopting a concept like this requires a larger change in a company’s organizational operating model.

Cloud is poised to disrupt traditional methods for deploying technology in support of business goals, so during adoption, change fatigue is real. Humans crave stability, so when sweeping change surrounds us, it’s understandable why we’d become weary or jaded about a project. When that happens, it’s easy for the project (in this case, cloud adoption) to fail, leaving the team back at square one.

Transform Your Operating Model

Resisting change is counterintuitive to progress, but organizations still do it. They’re designed to do it. It goes back to the fundamentals of organizational design: You define a process, optimize that process, and remove choice and variability from it in order to produce predictable, repeatable outcomes. It makes sense, then, that if you purposefully remove flexibility from a process (and drill in regularity), deviating from what’s known is difficult.

Failing to manage the change that cloud implementation brings can cause a business to fall behind. The solution? Companies must transform their cultures and organizational models first by transforming how IT uses new tools and methods, then by realigning how they interact with business stakeholders. Only then will the cloud’s benefits clearly present themselves.

Bringing Your Company to the Cloud

Some organizations make the mistake of relying solely on DevOps practices to support their cloud transformation. The 2016 State of the Cloud Survey found that 74 percent of businesses are adopting DevOps. This is a great thing, as DevOps practices increase communication, collaboration, team integration, and interdependence.

But DevOps isn’t an operating model — it’s the discipline of applying software development tools and practices to the problem spaces of data, analytics, operations, and security. The outcomes achieved through DevOps are outputs, not inputs, so companies often fail to achieve the transformation they seek.

When emerging practices first enter an industry’s landscape, many organizations tend to resist implementation until they see the benefits their competitors reap. This reactive method only serves to further complicate the problem.

If you’re worried about adding cloud technology to your own organization, know this: Technology change is complicated, but it’s possible with the right focus. The hard part is transforming culture, processes, and the contribution of your people. The parameters of cloud technology are clearly defined, and once you get your team members onboard with the process and benefits, the resulting transformation will empower them to be more engaged and excited by their jobs.

Here’s how to approach it.

1. Advocate change across your company.

Culture eats process for lunch. Effective transformation isn’t done to people; it’s done with people. The only way to effectively implement change is to empower team members, reduce their burdens, and create a mutually beneficial outcome.

The rapid acceleration of technology is causing change to occur more often than ever. In fact, experts estimate there are between 20 and 25 company wide changes happening simultaneously at any given organization today. In the 20th century, that number was much lower.

Every company has roadblocks, and employees have a much different perspective on business operations than the company’s executives. Far too often, process and governance lose meaning as they trickle down the corporate ladder. Building a culture that embraces change and welcomes new ways of approaching the job is key to effectively implementing new procedures. Embracing occasional failure as a learning process is also helpful.

Maintain an open-door policy and be willing to answer any questions honestly. Team members contribute their own set of skills and knowledge to the job, but that’s only possible if they’re inspired to bring their best. With a culture of change and open communication, there’s no challenge your team can’t tackle.

2. Explain employee benefits.

People need to understand the reasoning behind taking a different path, and it’s not always obvious. While cloud technology helps improve security and efficiency, entry-level employees, for example, may only see the required changes as extra steps they need to take. If you change a process without explaining the shared benefits to your entire team, it may not take hold the way you want.

Focusing too narrowly on high-level tactical benefits like “cost reduction” or “burstable capacity” will fall on deaf ears outside the leadership team. Your employees will only hear that they now must work harder to make bigger profits for the people upstairs. In this environment, the rollout could end up having more of a negative impact on productivity than a positive one.

Employees need to feel valued, and their time and energy commitments need to be rewarded with an equivalent benefit. Explain how the cloud adoption will lead to increased customer satisfaction, less wasted work, and more revenue to spend directly on the employees themselves.

Once your team understands the reasoning behind migrating to the cloud — or any technology, for that matter — your company will be on the right track. Your organization was systematically designed to standardize processes and produce repeatable results, but you can lead it to change. All you need to do is prepare your people to do the right thing and support them on the journey.

By Jeff Townes

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