Business

Prepare your people for the cloud

Businesses moving to the cloud need to ask themselves whether they're ready to do so, from a people perspective and not just a technology perspective.


Johannesburg, 16 Apr 2019
Read time 4min 20sec

The advent of South Africa-based cloud data centres (think Microsoft, AWS and Huawei) has prompted businesses that have not yet embarked on their cloud journey to consider doing so. Concerns around data sovereignty, GDPR and POPI compliance, and where the data resides, have been allayed to a large extent.

However, without buy-in and support from all of the necessary stakeholders, the business will struggle to successfully implement any change, let alone one of this magnitude. Handre van der Merwe, information security specialist at BUI, says: "The decision to move to the cloud is not merely a technology decision, it's a business decision and one that impacts everyone within that business."

It's essential for the business to communicate the benefits of cloud migration to all stakeholders, according to Van der Merwe. These include:

* Increased collaboration: The cloud enables dispersed teams to work together more efficiently and easily, enabling collaboration on projects between people in different buildings, different cities and even different countries.
* Greater accessibility: Stakeholders can access anything that they require from anywhere at any time.
* Flexibility: Team members have more flexibility to work from home and on the device of their choice.
* Access to the latest versions of all documents.
* The ability to use the latest tools and most updated versions of software without IT having to update their individual laptops or computers.

Van der Merwe says moving to the cloud can be broken down into four clear stages, as outlined below:

1. The business needs to outline its specific goals, objectives and compliance requirements.
2. A readiness assessment must be conducted, examining the existing IT infrastructure to gauge the organisation's readiness for the cloud.
3. Develop a roadmap, which is a strategic action plan for successful cloud implementation.
4. Implement cloud migration and deployment.

He believes a fifth stage should be added to this list advising companies to ensure their employees and other stakeholders are adequately prepared for cloud migration.

Change management is a key element of moving a company's data to the cloud. "It's human nature to be resistant to change," says Van der Merwe. "An example of this is mobile device management.

"Employees wishing to have corporate e-mail and data on their personal devices will be asked to register them with the IT department so that company data can be remotely deleted if these devices are stolen. This sometimes evokes resistance in the user, who wants the convenience of accessing their work e-mail on their phone, but doesn't want to feel that the company is able to access his or her personal device remotely."

He explains: "The business's communication to users is incredibly important. Moving to the cloud is going to change the way people are accustomed to working, and that has to be clearly communicated, as well as the benefits and advantages that the change will introduce."

He's an advocate of the Kubler-Ross approach to organisational and cultural change, which outlines the seven stages people go through when facing change in their working environment. These are:

1. Shock at the event;
2. Denial and looking for evidence that it isn't true;
3. Frustration and recognition that things are different, sometimes including anger;
4. Depression, characterised by a low mood and lack of energy;
5. Experiment with the new way of doing things;
6. Decision to learn to work in the new situation and a lift in mood; and
7. Integration of the changes.

Unless these emotional responses to change are addressed, employees will struggle to overcome their natural resistance to any major change in their working environment. Van der Merwe advises that companies use storytelling to craft their messaging, painting a picture of the post-change scenario that fits in with the company's vision, values and mission.

He says: "A clear sign that your change management efforts are succeeding is when there's an increase in participation in the new way of doing things. This means that your employees have reached the decision-making stage referred to in point six, above. If this doesn't happen, it's possible that the communication to staff was unclear and the change management initiative was therefore not effective."

According to the Cloud Africa 2018 survey by World Wide Worx, cloud computing has taken off in African markets, with adoption rates rising from fewer than 50% in 2013 to pervasive use in 2018. The 2018 survey highlighted that different benefits were realised per region, with almost a quarter (23%) of South African respondents to the survey seeing the cloud as a platform for international expansion.

Van der Merwe says: "Businesses that haven't yet investigated their options around starting their journey to the cloud risk being left behind as digital transformation intensifies in this country."

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