To date, much of the focus on moving IT to the cloud has centred on the technical and logistical challenges. But the implications for your people should not be overlooked.
Cloud technologies help promote significant cultural changes across a global organisation. Compared to on-premise solutions, cloud-based platforms ultimately offer a more flexible and scalable way to meet today’s business challenges. In addition, cloud technologies have removed many of the burdens of ongoing hardware and application maintenance costs, so IT departments are freed to focus on business innovations that can ultimately fuel company growth.
However, without a comprehensive transformation strategy, the benefits of the cloud will not be fully realised. This is especially true of global implementations, which bring unique challenges that add complexity and scale.
Data is a complication for most projects, but this issue is greatly exacerbated in global implementations, due to the need to deal with differing applications and tools from country to country. A relatively simple data migration project can be hampered by the need to cater for multiple languages, variations in address formats, disparate data sources and, often, patchy data quality.
Scale also magnifies the human factors that are essential to the success of a project. With diverse stakeholder groups to consider, good communication and effective collaboration are critical. And language takes on extra importance. Interpretations of phrases can differ greatly between different countries that speak the same language, much less among countries that don’t natively speak the same language. Distance and time zone differences can also inhibit the real-time collaboration necessary to efficiently achieve business outcomes.
Indeed, the greatest risk to a successful global transformation strategy is failure to account for cultural differences. From simple communication methods, to how each region trains and adopts new technology, cultural differences have a more profound effect than many companies realise. For example, leader rankings and dashboards will encourage adoption of processes in Australia, but they can be a hindrance in Japan, where goals are typically set at a group level, rather than individually. Meanwhile, in Chinese cultures, there can be resistance to new processes that have the potential to result in people “losing face” with their peers. As an example, sales leaders can be reluctant to enter information about a deal into Salesforce.com until it is won, rather than track it through the pipeline phases, because they don’t want to highlight lost deals.
Negative cultural issues tend to be the result of not gaining buy-in across global functions at the beginning of a transformation initiative. This is why it is critical the right investments are made to understand how your people and processes work across all geographies, before embarking on a cloud-based transformation strategy. And cultural issues can just as easily arise across teams based in the same country. That’s why, at Bluewolf we recommend companies invest 2:1 in their people versus technology, to ensure maximum return on investment from cloud-based implementations.
There is no doubt that cloud technologies are more flexible and enable faster innovation, but the human factor is just as critical as for any other transformation strategy. Failure to engage employees (and customers) upfront – and throughout implementation – will delay achievement of business goals and may jettison them altogether. Instead, take the time to first understand your stakeholders in all markets, and you’ll then start reaping the competitive benefits of transformation to an agile enterprise much sooner.