One of the most sensitive issues that require considerable effort when adopting not only new technologies but in general new ways of doing things is change management. Cloud Computing is not the exception. It has been talked extensively about Cloud Computing inhibitors such as security, portability, vendor viability, etc. however change management has been somehow forgotten by Cloud evangelizers that in an effort to convince us of the benefits of the new model forget that implementing Cloud takes a radical change in the way clients operate not only their technical areas but even more important is that in order to get the true benefits of this paradigm it is necessary to permeate this paradigm to the business areas where many times resistance to change is higher especially if this comes from the technical areas.
According to Chip & Dan Heath in his latest publication ¨Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard" there are three key aspects to be considered regarding change that the authors call: The Rider, The Elephant and The Road. My understanding of each of them as follows:
· First of all you need to “Direct the Rider”. You need to identify what the authors call the ¨ Bright Spots ", which is to say those (organizations/ individuals) who have handled change successfully so, taking these “Bright Spots” as a model you need to prescribe the actions to get to that ¨ final destination ¨.
· Second you need to “Motivate the Elephant” (to move ahead obviously). This is the motivation your organization needs in order to undertake change. Figuring out this motivation is important, however equally important in order to encourage your organization is to present change in small increments so that your organization feels they are making progress
· Finally you should “Shape the Path”, which is to say generate an appropriate environment to encourage the desired behavior, form habits of these behaviors and finely propagate change.
Based on these three principles lets think how to promote the shift to Cloud Computing in your organization:
Directing the Rider. As described in one of my previous posts (“My initial thoughts on cloud computing”) there are three types of cloud applications: SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). Many of the so called "success stories" in this field fall into the SaaS category. Traditionally small to midsize businesses requirements regarding collaboration are fairly covered with some of the traditional email systems and best case scenario with rustic collaboration tools. So the “Bright Spots” are precisely those companies that have dropped these rustic e-mail & collaboration tools and adopted cloud type tools as Microsoft BPOS or Google Apps.
Motivating the Elephant. Having defined the objective the next step would be to keep your organization encouraged to change. Train and inform your users about new features of the newly “acquired” collaboration software, emphasize the advantages regarding collaboration and mobility (the latter is always appreciated by users). Do not forget to encourage your stakeholders by showing in the simplest way the produced savings out of this initiative. Invest some time to figure out how to show critical aspects such as improvements in productivity, this approach will keep the elephant motivated.
Shaping the Path. To really reach the benefits of cloud collaboration and communication tools it is necessary to create the right environment which means that once you have shown your users the advantages of mobility for instance you should encourage them to take advantage of it by promoting working from home as an alternative for employees who do not require being physically in your office. Encourage the use of PDAs among executives of your company.
In another vein do not forget to show a clear path for adoption of cloud in your company, now that your stakeholders are confident about the “new” model and that they have felt some of the benefits it can bring to the company you can leverage the momentum to start migrating other apps such as Mission Critical apps, do you really have to have an on-premise payroll, accounting, inventory or billing system?, should you have a on-premise CRM system to support your company’s sales force and marketing efforts?, in light of the previous exercise perhaps the answers is: no, we don’t need that. Finally do not forget that at this point in time you will have put the “change machine” to work in your favor.