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When Planning a Cloud Build, Plan for Operational Change Too


When it’s time to change your approach to tech, most teams focus on the project. They look at the goals to be reached and the tasks to be done.

While this focus is essential to progress, it can also distract teams from recognizing how their own daily actions must change in order to achieve the team’s stated goals. Without adopting new approaches to work, a team may not succeed in enacting a successful cloud build or cloud migration.

To avoid unanticipated issues, it’s important to incorporate operational change into the discussion of project and task expectations.


Sorting Needs, Wants and Nice-to-Haves

Cloud computing is fast becoming a need for its flexibility and security. That’s because cloud builds let companies leverage infrastructure as a service to reduce overhead costs, optimize compliance with data privacy laws and enable remote work, writes Harris Delchamps, director of integrated solution sales at RJ Young.

“With the vast majority of businesses expected to adopt cloud solutions this year, forward-thinking companies must consider what this technological revolution means for them,” Delchamps writes. Often, it means adapting to the rise of cloud computing by embracing cloud builds.

Cloud computing offers many benefits, but it does so in part because it is adaptable. Its adaptability allows it to benefit a wide range of companies and teams, but cloud computing also requires those companies and teams to be clear about a project’s essential elements and add-ons, as well as how a cloud build will change the company’s approach to its work.

One way to begin separating needs from wants is to weigh the difference between short-term benefits and long-term goals, Julian Paul at UX Collective writes. By taking this perspective, teams can begin to determine how wants and needs interact.

For instance, teams can frame their approaches to a cloud build in terms of what the project needs in order for the company, its workers and its customers to get what they want from the build.

For a cloud-based fintech project, needs might include items like “an easy to navigate UI” or “access to mobile payment options” so that customers can fulfill the want of a one-stop shop for money transfers. The organization likewise can meet its want of recruiting and retaining these customers.

To help your own teams think in such terms, start by focusing on your big-picture goals. Bring internal and external development teams together early in the goal-setting process. As the internal team articulates its visions for the build, the experienced external development team can provide insight into how those goals might be realized. They can also discuss how achieving one goal might affect other, related goals for the project.

External insight plays another key role in the early stages of a cloud build, as well: Your external developers can help your team anticipate what will need to change in order for their project’s goals to become a reality.


Anticipating Operational Change

As the plan for a cloud build or a cloud migration takes shape, periodically step back and look at the plan within the context of the organization’s work as a whole. Leadership and communications consultant David Grossman recommends asking questions like:

  • What is changing? How does it differ from where we are now?
  • Who will be affected by this change?
  • In order for this change to succeed, who needs to change along with it? What do they need to do differently?
  • How will this change affect our assessment of risks, the goals we set or the culture we seek to build?

These questions provide context for the cloud build plan. They help the team understand which parts of the plan are necessary, which are desirable and which would be nice to have if they were feasible. This perspective also helps the team anticipate where their schedules, focus or other approaches to work may need to adapt, and then to plan accordingly.

By focusing on the way in which one change might trigger others, the team can better understand the project’s requirements — not only in terms of code, but also in terms of what individual team members will need to do for the project to succeed.

Taking this type of perspective at the start of a build can solve many problems before they begin.

“Studies indicate that between 40% and 60% of all defects found in software projects can be traced back to errors made while gathering requirements,” CODE Magazine’s Ellen Whitney writes. Addressing these issues becomes much simpler when they are identified before the code has been written or before a cloud migration has begun.

As the needs and wants related to the project take shape, record them in a project requirements document. This document does not need to cover every possible situation, writes Damien Filiatrault, CEO of Scalable Path. It only needs to provide enough information for the development team to understand what the cloud build needs to do and why.


Tools for Operational Change Management

Many teams easily recognize the benefits of identifying potential areas of change early in order to better manage disruption. Many, however, struggle when it comes to knowing where to start addressing these changes, or how to do so.

While cloud computing provides a number of benefits for customers, “you’ll only realize these benefits with a pragmatic cloud computing roadmap,” says Dave Bartoletti, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. Creating that roadmap is an essential first step.

While outlining requirements, keep the company’s overall business strategy in mind, writes Evgeniy Labunskiy, head of agile practices at PandaDoc. Think about how the project will provide value to customers. By focusing on this value, the team can envision the non-functional requirements of the project, like the ease of navigating menus or the speed with which the mobile version loads for users. These requirements, in turn, can help developers articulate the functional requirements necessary to create that experience for users.

One way to align the project’s goals with the business’s overall strategy is to compare key performance indicators (KPIs), writes George Hamilton, senior product line marketing manager at Cloud Health Tech. Aligning cloud and operational KPIs with the business’s KPIs allows teams to measure the impact of the project on the business’s success. This measure, in turn, provides essential data for contextualizing disruption on in-house teams. If teams find themselves only mildly disrupted but the project offers significant impacts on business goals, for example, the project may be on the right track.

It can help to work with an outside development team, especially for companies that engage with external teams in the early stages of cloud project development. An external team provides access to expert talent, allowing internal teams to manage change by focusing on the adaptation of their own core tasks.

As the project takes shape, assign members of your internal team to focus on managing the changes the project will impose at each stage. The goal for this person, or team, is to understand how one change ripples through the rest of the organization and to help each affected party respond accordingly.

Addressing changes in this way helps an organization build operational resilience, Matt Kunkel at LogicGate writes. Kunkel recommends that companies do three things to build operational resilience:

  • Consider risk from a broad perspective, taking into account the effects of a new project on every part of the organization.
  • Build a shared understanding of change and risk among teams, and encourage everyone in the organization to communicate about change, risk, unforeseen problems and new solutions. 
  • Identify key sources of risk or critical failure points, and adapt accordingly. 

The right cloud build will create real, meaningful change that moves the company closer to its business goals. Impactful change, however, tends to impact the entire organization, not just one department or one group of customers. By preparing as if a project will affect everyone, organizations can better predict challenges, address them early in the process and build better working relationships with external development teams.


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