When speaking with IT executives, cloud developers, and internal IT staff there is a lot of talk about all that great things happening because of the rise of cloud technology. Now that CIOs have (mostly) gotten over many of their concerns about security and reliability of the cloud, the conversation is moving from “should we?” to “how fast can we?”
Cloud IT systems are cheaper, faster and easier to deploy
The potential benefits to organizations deploying cloud systems are vast. Cloud IT can often deploy faster, easier and with less up-front cost than traditional on-premise or custom built systems. IT organizations are able to be more responsive to the needs of their organization, at a lower cost.
Now organizations must focus on using cloud systems to create value and maximize ROI. And this requires (finally) that IT leaders – and other executives – confront the biggest obstacle to IT success: poor user adoption. Without meaningful and effective user adoption no system – cloud or otherwise – will ever deliver measurable benefits.
This brings us to five new challenges that IT and business leaders need to address in order to achieve success when thinking about moving to the cloud.
1. Cloud systems are easy to deploy, but hard for users to adopt
Cloud systems can go-live and change faster than anything ever has before. A sticking point is the people, that is - the users don’t change nearly as fast. It takes time and effort to support users with each change. Users need to unlearn existing behaviors, gain new information about what is required, and then develop new working habits. And they need to do it every time there is a change to the system!
2. Traditional change management approaches don’t fit with the new needs of cloud technology
Traditionally, change management efforts focus on preparing users for the initial deployment of a new IT system. They typically focus on delivering communications and training in the months before go-live. Once the system is live, the bulk of the change effort is complete.
Cloud system aren’t static like the systems of yore; they’re dynamic and move fast, often with multiple, small, releases that incrementally introduce new functionality. The fast pace of cloud deployments mean that there is less time available to prepare users before the change. Instead, cloud projects require that you assist user in embracing change after the system is live, and continuously, over time, as the system changes.
3. Cloud systems move users from a learning curve to a learning treadmill
Many cloud systems are on a regular development cycle with new releases coming out every few weeks. The constant updates mean that users need to be continually on the lookout for things that have changed.
Unlike tools that are more static (think Microsoft Office) where people can be productive without thinking about how to navigate or operate the software, cloud IT systems with regular updates impose additional mental overhead on the people who use them. Don’t believe me – just look at all the outrage that happens when Facebook makes a change and people have to adjust to a new interface or functionality. You don’t want that kind of backlash against changes in your internal system!
4. Cloud is perceived as “easier”. Budgets and staffing are usually scaled back and don’t support adoption efforts
Since cloud systems and viewed as “easier” from a technology perspective (since they can go live faster and with less IT overhead), there is a perception by many project leaders that they are also easier for users to adopt.As a result, many cloud projects have lowered the amount of budget and resources they devote to facilitating change and maximizing user adoption.This only accelerates the speed in which organizations encounter user adoption problems. And lengthens the time to ROI.
5. Cloud systems have a shorter payback period, so you need to prove results faster
Cloud systems are typically purchased on a subscription basis, often with an initial contract that carries a 2 or 3-year commitment. At the end of the contract cloud users have many options - renew the contract, replace the system, change the contract terms / price / duration, or pursue some other course of action.Now, given short contract periods, lower upfront (sunk) costs, and the perceived ease of switching systems, cloud systems have a short window in which they must demonstrate they are generating measurable results. Even with low upfront costs, executives expect to realize a positive ROI on their cloud investment before the end of the initial contract period. If your cloud system doesn’t show it’s adding measurable value, it won’t be around for long.
Conclusion: For cloud IT success, you need to focus on user adoption & ROI
Perhaps the biggest change and challenge when it comes to cloud IT systems is that the spotlight is squarely focused on how much value you derive from your IT investment. With the lower costs and compressed deployment times, success is no longer delivering the system “on-time and on-budget”. Instead, success is judged by speed to ROI, user adoption and benefits realization. Are you prepared for these new challenges?