The journey to cloud: five ways to avoid short sightedness

The journey to cloud: five ways to avoid short sightedness

It’s an ongoing process and a failure at one point or another is almost inevitable, says Julian Mcall

Digital transformation – in particular the move to cloud – has completely changed the way we work. However, if I’m honest, it hasn’t been very straight forward. I wasn’t surprised when I discovered, thanks to a Rackspace survey, that 94 per cent of c-suite executives have regrets following a cloud migration.

Getting a move to the cloud right is a journey, not a destination. It involves many teams, various stakeholders and a lot of trial and error. This means that finding the right partners is key but almost more importantly, communication is what will make or break the process.

At Specsavers, we recently decided to implement an online appointments system for the Australian market. Given the customer facing feature set required, we needed an infrastructure that could provide the appropriate service level that our customers expect.

To achieve this, we engaged Rackspace to manage the migration and what started out as a seemingly small change to an administration process has actually had a huge impact across the business.

1. Communicate you vision, channel your inner storyteller

Moving to a new IT environment is complicated. It is going to cost money, involve a lot more people than just your IT team, and there will always be new risks to mitigate. Remember, people don’t like change, so be prepared for cultural resistance too.

When communicating a vision, the importance of storytelling can’t be underestimated. It’s about relaying the benefits, leveraging support and building advocacy.

A tried-and-tested method for achieving company buy-in is education, such as organisational-wide roadshows, demonstrating how the IT migration will work and what the benefits will be to each department. In addition, a well thought out internal communications plan should the cornerstone of any migration project.

After completing a recent roadshow, I can see how our approach has evolved to a consultative led relationship with our internal customers to ensure we listen to everyone’s needs.

What’s more, it is crucial that change is led from the top, with executive leadership teams encouraging cloud initiatives, rather than a bottom-up approach. This has a two-fold outcome: it ensures full understanding amongst the leadership team and encourages the wider cultural shift necessary to make cloud work for everyone.

2. Eye up the right expertise

The journey to the cloud is an ongoing process, and a failure at one point or another is almost inevitable. IT leaders are under intense pressure to get the journey right, which is just one of the reasons it can be difficult to sell-in internally.

Having the right expertise to minimise risks and failures is crucial. It assists in overcoming challenges such as security, compliance or managing cloud spend. Attracting and retaining the right cloud expertise in-house is both tough to source and competitive to keep.

My advice – don’t go it alone. Finding the talent internally can be difficult and expensive. The human cost of a “DIY” move to cloud means chewed up team time and a much longer migration period, not to mention the costs of training. If your IT team works on a migration for 11 months, think about what you’re taking them away from.

There are also areas that seriously benefit from the help of specialists, particularly compliance. Australia has some of the strictest data protection laws in the world, and they are constantly being updated. Although this is great for consumers, it makes internal management more difficult, particularly during cloud migration.

3. Sharing the cost of migration

There is no getting around the fact that the cost of moving to cloud can be high – especially if you want to do it right. This can particularly be the case if you try to DIY it. It’s the human cost of cloud migration that people often don’t account for, and which can leave them out of pocket.

When it comes to digital transformation you also have to look at who is benefiting. It should tap into the needs of the wider company and be a priority for all members of the c-suite. Therefore, the cost and workload shouldn’t just be levied on the IT team. Once the benefit is identified for each department, so should the allocation of costs.

Different stakeholders will care about and be affected by different parts of the project – and their share of the cost should be allocated accordingly.

4. You won’t always foresee every benefit

Last year, Specsavers launched a new online cloud-based customer booking system. The aim was to streamline the process for appointments and give customers an easier online booking process.

Prior to implementation, individual stores were handling up to 50 call-backs a day, and appointment attendance rates were low. However, the new website has increased online appointments by up to 30 per cent, improved appointment attendance to 80 per cent, and has had a positive impact on in-store sales.

This is evidence that digital transformation isn’t just about improving your services. It is about looking at ways to completely change the way a company can support and interact with its customers.

5. Don’t stop innovating

Digital transformation never really stops. It is an ongoing journey which allows companies to stay competitive and provide better services for their consumers.

So, although our move to the cloud may seem like a project well done, this is in fact just the beginning. We are constantly assessing and tweaking the way we manage our service with our partners. It’s an agile approach.

Organisations must always take a proactive approach to communication in a cloud migration project, particularly around benefits and risks, in order to lessen cloud regret. Keeping executives informed, encouraging teams through storytelling, and using expertise to help along the way, culminates in the realisation of many hidden benefits of a cloud journey.

Julian Mcall is head of technical services at Specsavers.

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