Change Management – How to Successfully Implement a Cloud System

Dear Mr. Purchasing Manager,

You’ve spent 3 whole quarters qualifying dozens of cloud-based procurement systems and you’ve finally found, The One.  Congratulations!  Well, now that you’ve signed your life away and paid the sales guy his commission, what comes next and where do you even start with preparing your organization for this massive change?  Don’t panic, you are not only not alone.  With software as a service going mainstream in the past decade, many organizations are taking to the cloud to fill the needs of their business.  In a research done by Forbes, more than 50% of American businesses are adopting to cloud systems.  However, not all of these businesses experience a successful cloud implementation.  Oftentimes the cloud project will have failed or be delayed due to unexpected challenges – especially internal operational challenges that are often overlooked.

Thomas Bittman, who is the VP and a distinguished analyst of Gartner Research has been an early pioneer of the cloud computing industry and has seen companies crash and burn from poorly thought-out cloud implementation projects.  In Thomas’s article “Problems encountered by 95% of private clouds” He surveyed 140 respondents in which 95% of them said that something was wrong with their private cloud.  Interestingly enough, the majority of the 95% identified that the downfall was the failure to change the operational model.

Lucky you, operational challenges are 100% controllable factors.  In fact, in a perfect world, they should be had been included in the scope of your cloud project well in-advance of you buying the service.  Here are some considerations you should start thinking about to help your whole organization seamlessly transition into a cloud platform… or should I say, a better future.

Power to the People

As Thomas Bittman wrote, “Your staff can be your biggest supporters or your biggest roadblocks.”  I cannot stress this enough.  Having been part of over 40 cloud implementation projects, I can say firsthand that getting buy in from all the stakeholders is key to a successful project.  Stakeholders are anyone from end users of the new system to your C-level partners that will see long term structural benefits and results.  I encourage that you involve your C-level partners in the early stages of the project so you do not run into challenges like scope creep mid-implementation.  Everyone should have a clear understanding of expectations and limitations of the system from the gecko and use that as leverage to align with not just your departmental strategies but your company strategies.

Including your end users during implementation is just as important as the c-level partners.  After all, they will be the ones using the service the most in their day-to-day.  The key benefit on early end-user engagement the ability to delegate implementation tasks.  Helping set up the system will give them a sense of accomplishment and ownership of the project.  The learning curve of a new system may be steep for certain users so getting them exposed to the system as it is being built is a great way to understand the system.  As Benjamin Franklin once said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Over Communication killed the relationship – said no one ever.

Once the system has been set up, it’s time to set our employees up for success.  Having multiple communication channels is the one of the most effective ways to make sure that the money spent on your new platform is not wasted.  Here are some communication channels and strategies to consider:

  1.  Host AMA sessions to explain the reason for the change and highlight bottlenecks and pain points that are relevant to your staff. How the staff visualize the new process with the system change.
  2.  Training sessions are great way to communicate the new change to a big audience. Training sessions help to minimize the marginal of error and the IT resources needed to fix error when the new system is in place.
  3.  Depending on the size of your organization, you may want to stagger your training session by department or site to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to learn.
  4.  If your cloud service provider does not already have training material, be prepared to create your own documentation for internal use that everyone has access to. Some of my most successful clients almost always create their own custom documentation that is stored in a common virtual place where employees can refer back to.  The goal is to empower your staff with all the bells and whistle to take full advantage of the new features.
  5.  I’ve seen instances where the end users have a hard time adopting to the new system because they feel like its extra work to their day-to-day – fair enough, most of the time that is a fact. They only see the system as a benefit for C-level executives because they gain better controls and visibility.  But what’s in it for them?  Help them realize the value of the system for them and not just for your team.  For example, for a cloud based procurement systems like Procurify, you are able to upload packaging slips and pictures to your purchase orders in the system.  If your staff were not already doing that before, this is a new extra step!  However, believe it or not, this extra step will same them time.  Let me explain.  If someone on your team realizes there is external damage to the new office desk they ordered they will need to get the vendor to reship.  However, if they are no pictures or proof of delivery – good luck getting that reimbursed from the vendor!  This is spoken from experience as a purchaser in my previous job.

Your customer success manager is your new BFF

The very existence of my role is to make you happy – plain and simple.  Our relationship is positively correlated so when you reach your KPIs, that means I also reach my KPIs so please utilize me to my full potential!  Come to us prepared with quantitative goals so we can help set metrics to ensure you are successful with the system.

So Mr. Purchasing Manager, I commend you for making the smart decision to join the cloud movement and may your cloud journey prosper through the power of the people and communication.