Article (8 minute read)

Is Your Culture Clashing with Your Transformation Strategy?

Only 1/3 of organizations achieve their cloud goals — but considering company culture can boost results.

Lee James / Rackspace

Cloud transformations tend to look similar from one organization to the next when viewed in a cultural vacuum. For instance, all transformations involve a focus on technologies, capabilities and business goals. But when we factor in culture — the expectations, priorities, needs and types of interactions that take place between the people who directly impact how a company grows and changes — we quickly see that transformation plans need to vary widely between organizations.

While the cloud holds great promise for organizations on everything from improving customer experiences to keeping pace with disruption, only one-third of businesses have achieved their expected cloud outcomes. We suspect that one of the reasons for the shortfall is that many organizations have not taken their employee culture into consideration.

It’s a fact that cloud deployment missteps are common when organizations don’t factor in culture. But when culture is considered, deployments can thrive, giving companies access to all of the speed, capacity, efficiency and agility the cloud provides.

To break through the barriers that culture can create and optimize your chances for a successful cloud transition, we recommend including your employees and tapping into their experiences – both personal and professional. Take this opportunity to:

  • Communicate how the cloud will improve their work processes
  • Create a team to champion your cloud strategy
  • Design the ideal cloud platform to support your employees’ workflow
  • Celebrate wins and recognize employees’ contributions along the journey

1. Communicate how the 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. When the cloud is the tool you need to deliver on your mission, your employees need to know — and understand — that advantage.

According to Gallup, there is a direct link between employees’ understanding of their company's identity and key measures of business health. Yet, only 41% of employees strongly agree that they know what their company stands for. When it comes to cloud adoption, this disconnect can derail the best-laid plans.

Your organization can overcome this risk by taking an employee-centric approach to cloud adoption. Instead of outright mandating a cloud transition, bring your staff along on each step of the journey from the beginning. This helps to give them perspective and context while letting them know that the cloud deployment is not happening to them, it’s happening with them.

The goal of your cloud communication plan will be to gain buy-in. To achieve that goal means your messaging must connect with and resonate with them. When employees buy in to your business plans, they are more likely to embrace the transformation while becoming your biggest advocates and allies for the cloud migration. This, in turn, often helps to bring other employees onboard.

Central to this proactive approach is a comprehensive communication plan. As you build that plan, try to do the following:

  • Communicate your company culture in your messaging, while using your unique voice.
  • Express the collaborative, inclusive nature of your cloud transition, including the roles team members will play in helping the transformation succeed.
  • Describe how the cloud will impact work, including improvements to workflow.
  • Explain how the cloud will benefit the customers and, as a result, lead to business success, a competitive advantage and overall longevity.

2. Create a team to champion your cloud strategy

There’s no denying the power of teamwork in today’s organizations. 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 companies, their customers and themselves.

Countless studies have proven the power of problem solving when healthy doses of cooperation exist within teams. Interestingly, it’s not the personalities, attitudes or behavioral styles of team members that matter most, according to J. Richard Hackman, a pioneer in organizational behavior. What teams need to thrive are “enabling conditions,” including a compelling direction, a strong structure and a supportive context.

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

One source of inspiration for an IT leader 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 your need to embed in the structure of your cloud team.

While traditional games focus on instant gratification through immediate wins, Fortnite encourages longer-term strategies by requiring teams to try and test how to best work together to build up to a win. This perfectly defines the ideal cloud team. Build your cloud team based on these gaming characteristics:

  • Individuality. In Fortnite, individual skills are the key to winning. This requires keeping teams lean and agile, assigning people to projects based on their experience, and ensuring there is an opportunity for individuals to own parts of the project.
  • Common goals. Players engage in self-governance because Fortnite has eliminated the need for a manager. This democratic environment means performance is transparent and everyone takes responsibility for the outcome.
  • Speed. Games last 15 minutes, so teams need to move quickly and work under pressure. This requires team members who are flexible and agile.
  • Feedback. Players experiment and test different solutions, constantly improving and refining their strategy at rapid intervals. They rely on constant feedback to let their team members know what’s working and what’s not. 

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

3. Design the ideal cloud platform to support employee workflows

When it comes to cloud deployments, the smartest first step is to evaluate your organization’s current work processes before planning the infrastructure to support it. Among other things, a detailed evaluation helps identify processes that may no longer be necessary, as well as processes that need to be added.

In an effective cloud 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.

One study found that there are high risks associated with radical changes of business processes. In fact, the failure rate can be as high as 70%. One factor that often contributes to this high failure rate is a lack of consideration for employees’ traditional workflow. Your people are your company’s greatest asset. Considering their needs will make the cloud transformation appealing instead of something to dread and resist.

When we engage with organizations to discuss their cloud transformation and identify the outcomes they want to achieve for their employees, common answers include purpose, usefulness, rewards and speed. To achieve these goals, ask these questions:

  • Purpose: What to your employees need to accomplish and how can they accomplish it better?
  • Usefulness: How can the cloud make their work lives easier?
  • Rewards: What can the cloud do to support the way they like to work?
  • Speed: What kind of access to information do they need and how can the cloud make it better?

4. Celebrate wins and recognize employee contributions along the journey

One of your biggest jobs is to keep your fast-moving teams motivated. An easy way to do this is by celebrating milestones and wins along the journey. Employees who receive immediate, frequent rewards for completing small tasks report more interest and more enjoyment in their work compared with people who received delayed rewards that are only given out at the end of a long project.

What’s more, people who received frequent rewards stay intrinsically motivated to perform well and continue completing tasks, even when the reward is no longer offered. This suggests a lasting positive effect between rewards or positive reinforcement and performance or job satisfaction.

So, what types of rewards will motivate your teams to help make your cloud transformation a success? Here are a few considerations:

  • Make the rewards frequent by creating a large number of short-term goals to reach.
  • Reward innovation, such as suggestions on better ways to perform tasks.
  • Celebrate milestones that relate to your employees. Some milestone examples include improvements in how they perform their jobs, increases in their efficiency and productivity, improvements in their service to customers and meeting business goals.

Transformation through a powerful cloud strategy is crucial to survival in today’s business world. But without support from employees, businesses cannot move forward. To deploy leading-edge cloud capabilities and gain the technological advantages the cloud delivers, bring your organization’s unique cultural characteristics into your cloud deployment strategy — including communication, teamwork, workflow and rewards.

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About the Author

Chief Technical Officer, EMEALee James As Chief Technology Officer for Rackspace EMEA, Lee James helps customers bring value to their business through the strategic development of Rackspace services. He has more than 20 years of experience leading large-scale, multinational, agile-based...

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