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    September 9, 2021

    Change Management for Cloud Migration: 13 Tips to Get It Right

    “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” – James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, Business Leaders and Authors 

    Without buy-in from a team, any technology initiative will fail. That’s always been true, and some organizations understand the human side of change management. But not many do.  

    The same is true with a Cloud migration. When you’re putting time, energy and money into moving from an on-premises solution to the Cloud – whether it’s one application, or your entire system landscape – you want a solid ROI. But you may not get that if individuals often don’t understand the value of the migration, particularly what’s in it for them. 

    That means it is critical to dedicate as much time to change management as you do to the technical aspects of a Cloud migration. If you don’t, your organization will suffer from: 

    • Low adoption levels 
    • Unrealized benefits 
    • Poor employee engagement and morale 

    Jessica Noble, Management Consultant Leader, and Stefan Lowrie, Senior Director, Service Delivery, at Enavate, shared how organizations need to think about change management when it comes to Cloud migration and software implementation. 

    1. Dispel fears

    When it comes down to it, how a technology will change someone’s day is what matters most in change management efforts. And team members come into a project with expectations that may or may not be aligned with reality.  

    For example, though the Cloud allows for reliable backups and recoveries, someone may just feel better about having critical documents on their computer or server. The existing solution may be awful, but to that worker, it may feel safer than giving up perceived control.  

    Understanding the root of that feeling and then communicating about it is paramount. So, how do you uncover the fears your team has about a migration? 

    • Simply ask them. Ideally, talk to individual team members instead of conducting a broader survey. That way, you can ask follow-up questions to better understand why people feel the way they do. 
    • Do market research (e.g., ask Google). You’re not alone. Thousands of companies have gone through Cloud migrations. Do some research online to uncover questions you can use with your own team to see if those are valid in your environment. Ask your Cloud migration partner about the process. Enavate has years of experience migrating clients to the Cloud. We can share the common obstacles companies face in gaining buy-in, and what’s worked to overcome them. 
    • Talk with the critical thinkers. (Don’t treat them like complainers.) There are people that look at every problem from every angle and are vocal about the risks. They’re critical thinkers. That’s how their minds work. If you can convince them, you can convince anyone. They are also a great source of insight and ideas. 

    “Understand that poor morale related to a project may be due to stories or expectations that aren’t true. When you know what your team is most worried about, you’ll be able to speak up in a way that people can understand and provide the context they need to understand what’s in it for them and the entire company,” Noble says. 

    2. Test to ensure your solution works as expected – and to build confidence among your team 

    Testing is a critical part of the Cloud migration and application implementation process. Your team needs to understand the value of testing, Noble says. 

    If you test nothing else, consider the “what-ifs.” For example, what if somebody is updating an account record – and somebody else needs to be in it? If your power goes out, does a transaction hang there and wait until it comes back or does the transaction pretend it never got started? If you’re a retail operation, have you tested it at the volumes you’ll see during peak operating times?  

    Understand what it will be like for the person using the application, which can be good or bad.  

    “They’re going to want to make sure everything’s functioning, but is it also functioning in a way that makes it a good experience?” she says. 

    When you conduct testing, you build confidence in the solution and increase buy-in. Include people who haven’t been involved in the project. When you ask them to perform everyday functions with minimal direction, you’ll find out what’s intuitive and what doesn’t make sense. 

    “There’s nothing like watching, shadowing someone else doing it to find out how it changes their day and routine.” – Jessica Noble

    3. Test your messaging

    Communication is a standard part of any change management plan – reinforcing the why of the project. But don’t just send one email, Noble says. Communicate on multiple channels.  

    Test your message before sending it to a broader audience. It’s not about testing the strategy. You’re testing the language and the tone you’re using to communicate that strategy.  

    Send your messages to a cross-section of people who haven’t been involved in your project. Then, reach out and say, “I just wanted to get your feedback on this announcement. Was it clear? Did it make sense? What questions or concerns do you have?” Then you can clarify that communication or add a quick list of FAQs. 

    “You’re going to be wrong. You might get a piece of it right. But you’re always going to miss something that’s so obvious. Just test it.” – Jessica Noble 

    4. Make expectations clear 

    Instead of communicating how a new process should be handled differently, let people know what processes to avoid.  

    For example, when a CFO sends out instructions to the team about handling certain transactions, they should mention what to stop doing: Stop using spreadsheets because now you can do it all in the system.  

    If someone needs time to transition to new processes, designate a time frame in which they can still do things the old way – but be clear about when the spreadsheet needs to be burned in a fire pit. 

    “It might be that you have manual time entry: People open up an Excel spreadsheet, they type all these numbers into the spreadsheet, they email the spreadsheet to so-and-so and that person takes those numbers and keys them over into this system. It's a whole discombobulated time-entry process. By moving to the new version of the application, your users can do time entry directly into the platform and you eliminate all that email back and forth and the hand-keying of data from spreadsheets into another system,” says Lowrie. 

    5. Avoid doing it two ways 

    If 10 percent of the team is still doing things the old way after launch, they’re tainting the water, Noble says.  

    Fractional adoption results in exponentially fewer benefits or outcomes in a Cloud migration. For example, if salespeople entered good quality data 90 percent of the time, while 10 percent of the time they just entered whatever they wanted, the validity of the solution comes into question. 

    That 10 percent might be owed to friction with the new process, which needs addressing. 

    “The first phone call you're going to get is from the user who says, ‘Yesterday, it took me 15 seconds to log into my app and do my work. Now, I go to log in and it takes three minutes.’ Or, ‘My job used to be much more efficient or faster and now you've moved my applications or something's changed in my applications. They don't run like they used to,’” Lowrie says. 

    6. Tap champions 

    Develop a network of champions in your company so you’re not just relying on top-down communication to get buy-in. Those champions can then disseminate the message through various channels. Equip them with the right knowledge and understanding so they can communicate the message in a way that’s meaningful to their audience.  

    7. Acknowledge the good – and the not-so-good of the change 

    On that note, don’t gaslight your team. Communicate the positives, but don’t shy away if there is something that is not quite as awesome. Inevitably there will be some feature or function that one team will feel they got the short end of the stick. Don’t try to convince them that something they think is bad isn’t bad. They’ll just dig their heels in deeper. 

    “Your employees aren’t stupid. Just own it: ‘You know, that piece, maybe it isn’t our favorite, but there are a lot of other things that make this change worth it.’” – Jessica Noble 

    For example, one team may feel like a feature is amazing. But another complains they have an extra step or extra fields to contend with now. Listen to the team’s concerns to determine if there were any issues that should have been considered. Explain that the other team needed the extras, and paint that picture as to why the solution overall is better. Or acknowledge it’s 90 percent or 95 percent of the way there. 

    That transparency will build trust among your team.  

    8. Timing is everything 

    If you go live during your busiest time of year, you may be asking for things to go wrong and morale around the solution to drop. At the same time, it doesn’t have to be a big-bang implementation, so why do it all at once? What degree of disruption is worth it? Remember, the moment you go live, the project’s not over, so be prepared. 

    “Every time we engage with a client, before they commit to the Cloud or doing a migration, we set timelines,” Lowrie says. “You start with, if you decide to move your apps to a cloud platform, what target date would you like to have that happen by? Are there any mitigating factors along the way that might delay that? A good example is: You're working with a CPA and they say, ‘Tax Day is April 15th. So, from January to April, I don't have the time to deal with QA testing or anything.’ So, you can rule out those three or four months and say that can't be part of the project timeline.” 

    9. Stop frustration at its source

    After go-live, your users will inevitably have a lot of questions. Plan to field those. Some companies identify super users from the project team to float around the floor. In a virtual world, this could be on a Slack or Teams channel.  

    Create an informal mechanism for users to ask questions in the moment so frustration doesn’t build. This also gives you another source of input to update FAQs that can be shared with the whole team. 

    10. Training should not be one-and-done

    Yes, you need to do training on the features and functionality of the Cloud solution and any applications that were migrated. Don’t limit training to a one-time exercise.  

    Also, think bigger than just a traditional classroom structure. Some users will inevitably prefer just-in-time training to be able to get the answer when they need it. Send out tips based on FAQs you’ve collected, or build cheat sheets or tip cards that can be accessed when needed. Get creative. 

    11. Phase improvements to the “old ways” 

    You have a lot of expectations for your Cloud migration. If you didn’t, you would not be making the investment and risk the disruption to your organization’s operations. In addition to getting your team on board, plan to take advantage of the ways your new solution can improve your processes. What can you do in your new environment that you couldn’t do in your old? Introduce new functionality in stages – monthly or quarterly, for example. 

    “When we plan a migration like this, it may not be the entire organization that moves, at least not all at once,” Lowrie says. “It could be the purchasing department or distribution, or some other component of the company is going to move first and then a staged or staggered migration will occur. The complexity may make it too impactful to the company to move all at once.” 

    12. Mitigate risks with proper governance

    Any change to business processes or technology platforms introduces risks to your organization. Governance teams can mitigate risks and ensure minimal interruption to adoption or innovation efforts, according to Microsoft. Governance often has a bad name, but a level of formality and rigor can mean the difference between success – and failure – in a Cloud migration.  

    “Rigor and governance do not mean red tape. It doesn’t mean filling out unhelpful forms. There’s a reason that doing risk management is good. There’s a reason that testing is good. Reinforce that those things are important and don’t cut corners.” – Jessica Noble 

    Give the same amount of attention to a project that benefits your organization as you would for a client. There’s a ripple effect to everything you will do, and it’s easy to not see the forest for the trees. A process and structure will ensure you’re not doing this in a vacuum. 

    “There's a lot of assuming everything will go well and ‘hope for the best’ attitudes out there,” Lowrie says. “For example, the most vital thing for a lot of companies is being able to print checks. I need to be able to produce and print checks and get them out to the vendors.  

    “If I can't pay my vendors and I can't pay my people, we're in big trouble. You'll be shocked how many times clients move an ERP to the cloud and never attempted to print an actual check. They may have printed regular things on paper or Word documents, etc. But then they find that the magnetic ink printers use a custom driver that wasn't thought about and wasn't added to the ERP.  

    “The next thing, it's check run day and they can't print checks. It wasn't tested in QA. It’s vital that all the critical pieces of the business are documented out and those pieces are tested as part of the migration.” 

    13. Get help

    Internally, it’s hard to understand how complex your environment truly is. A partner with an outside view will see that more clearly and will ensure you have the right resources and project management to get it right.  

    They will also bring rich experience from hundreds of other migrations and implementations to the table. An outside facilitator, like a Cloud expert at Enavate, will explore your needs and ask the right questions. 

    Considering a migration to the Cloud? Learn more about partnering with Enavate. Schedule a Whiteboard Session with one of our Cloud experts. 

    Tag(s): cloud

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