The Why, How, and Where of moving to the Cloud
There is a direct correlation between the “Why” and “How” of the journey of transition to the Cloud. The complexity is added by the element of “Where” the organization is at prior to entering the Cloud. I have spent a major part of 2013 participating in this crucial journey with customers and made notes and observations along the way to accomplish one of my primary goals in 2014 and that is to make this transition as seamless and intelligent as possible for my customers. In this blog I will touch on some of these observations and the interplay of the “Why”, “How”, and “Where” elements that define the trajectory of evolution to the Cloud for an organization. For purposes of clarity I will use “organization” as a single entity and switch to first person as needed.
Let’s begin by defining these 3 elements:
Why do I want to go to the Cloud?
This question encompasses the various pain points that will eventually find their place in your business case. Many organizations stop there and hence miss a necessary evil that must be pondered upon and that is “Where do you want your organization to be in future?” Without an eye on the future and a clear goal your decisions will be premature and lack the expected results.
I have to warn you it is not a process devoid of pain, confusion, and bottlenecks, but as with any kind of growth or evolution you have to cut through these obstacles to ensure that you achieve your goals.
Here are some Why’s that I have seen convert into a successful business case and a successful implementation. “I want to go to the Cloud because:
- “I am using antiquated software that does not support the collaborative culture I would like to have”
- “The organization is on an aggressive growth path that requires systems that are malleable to suit that growth”
- “I need a single source that allows people and processes to engage and increase productivity, as well as for reporting and analytics”
- “I am using disparate systems that always need complex maintenance during upgrades”
- “My system has been heavily customized and adding new functionality is complex and time consuming”
I came across some interesting observations of my colleague Luke Marson in his blog 2014 HCM Wish List about the genetic strain of 21st Century businesses and predictions on how organizations can enhance their relevance which, I believe can be quite valuable.
How do I want to go to the Cloud?
This question brings to light many customers who knew that they wanted to go to the Cloud and had the budget, but just didn’t know how to get there. You start with answering the “Why” but that is just the beginning; as many of you – either customers or those that have worked with customers – will identify with, it isn’t that simple.
When you start treading the path of the “Why” and “How” you will begin to identify some of the core areas that need to be addressed. However, from there spring a few subsidiary areas that need attention, as well as they are paramount to the success of the core areas. I am compelled to share this example from a workshop because I think in many ways that discussion planted the seed for this blog and may resonate with many of you now or in the future.
I primarily implement SuccessFactors Employee Central (SAP’s core HRIS in the Cloud) and in one of the many workshops that I have partnered with Luke Marson – a global workshop – we were facilitating a discussion about the various portlets for the Talent Profile (the Talent Profile is the integration point between Employee Central and the SuccessFactors Talent solutions). What started with an innocuous discussion about what Portlets to use snowballed into a regional warring of heads about data migration of the learning and training data of employees. Luckily we managed to prevent the workshop from derailing, but something pertinent came out of it. We had further discussions with the customer and recommended that Learning should be the next SuccessFactors HCM solution to be implemented after Employee Central. This was contrary to the customer’s initial prioritization of Performance and Goals, but it was clear that the customer simply wasn’t aware of the various factors plaguing the lives of their Global and Regional HR professionals. This is just one of the many examples I have had the privilege to be a part of solving. What I am trying to emphasize here is that it may take a number of iterations for the “How” to be fully answered. And while it is essential to have a clear roadmap, dexterity will effect an explicit result oriented strategy and approach.
Where am I and Where do I want to be after transitioning to the Cloud?
The element of “Where” is pertinent and a dichotomous one that is often overlooked by organizations. Let’s examine this.
- Where is the organization today prior to transitioning to the Cloud?
- Where should the organization be after transitioning to the Cloud?
Once you have answered the “Why” and “How” of your Cloud journey you will have a fair idea of where the organization is. For any successful journey, it is important to know the starting point and destination in order to develop a path that considers all factors before embarking on the journey. It also helps you in other important decisions that you will need to make along the way to ensure that you have considered all of the factors and are on track with where the organization is heading. Here are a few pointers to ensure that you are on track to taking the organization in the right direction with the transition to the Cloud.
Resources: You have painted a good picture of where you are and where you want to be, now it is time to look at the resources that will fuel the Cloud wagon. These can be people resources in the current state, financial resources, system, and people resources that will be required to create and maintain the future state, etc. An early examination of these enables you to choose the right Cloud vendor, the right implementation partner, the right delivery model, and – above all – the right support model.
Roadmap: You have created a roadmap after diligently looking at the key areas that demand attention and possible growth areas, and now it is time to look at whether any of the current state elements can become an impediment during the implementation.
There can be many schools of thought to tackle this situation and none is right or wrong, it all depends on the unique situation of the customer. For some customers it may be prudent to tackle current issues before pulling the throttle on the Cloud. For example, at one of my Employee Central customers, a current state assessment revealed issues with their SAP Time and Payroll Schema and inconsistencies in their Personnel Structure that were causing a lot of issues and the customer felt that transitioning to Employee Central will resolve these issues. Now that’s a great example of an inappropriate “Why” to go to the Cloud. We recommended a remediation strategy to fix these issues before kicking off the Employee Central implementation that will provide a better ROI for the customer on their Employee Central investment.
At the same time, for some it could be an activity that is conducted in parallel so as not to obstruct the momentum and deprive the organization of some of the quick wins of being in the Cloud. It all depends on the systems and processes being impacted.
Re-engineering: The undertone of any growth effort is to do things differently and operating in the Cloud is no anomaly. It is an opportunity for organizations to reflect on the way they have been doing business. It gives me utmost pleasure when I see customers express their sincere appreciation for how simple and intuitive processes can be once they embrace the Cloud. For me transitioning to the Cloud is not so much about the technology as it is about a better place for organizations to be in where they can operate more effectively and in tune with their business needs and goals.
It is a necessary evil of software implementations to be split into phases but I always see it as a continuum that enables continued growth. For example, there may be something that you discover during the testing phase, thanks to that defect that crept up on you from nowhere. Many of these issues have been the cause of product enhancements for SaaS products. I always recommend customers to have an internal Business Analyst who can have an eye on that continuum of growth while paying attention that the solution is hitting the mark on the intended business drivers
Priorities: Lastly and importantly, the organization will evolve in unimaginable ways as you continue on your journey to the Cloud. Having organizational priorities in line with the organizational direction is an important anchor that will enable you to make those tough decisions and prevent delays and cost overruns. While you are answering the various questions a number of brilliant ideas will be brainstormed, make sure you take a note and assign a priority score to it. These priorities may also change as the business evolves and as your Cloud solution evolves, hence the earlier mention of dexterity! Isn’t that what businesses are trying to achieve in the innumerable strategic and tactical endeavors to stay ahead of the competition?
I have read various step-by-step guides for when customers are transitioning to the Cloud but experience tells me that every organization has its unique Cloud tale. Irrespective of the industry, the SaaS vendor, and the implementation partner, you choose, the “Why”, “How”, and “Where” of the journey to the Cloud need to be answered. It was my attempt to inform you of some of the machinations of this journey and oil spills you may have to clean up along the way but if you have done your due diligence answering the “Why”, “How”, and “Where” and have a partner that can walk the steps with you then you will be well on your way to the Cloud with a smile and pride in what you accomplish.
I wish you all the best on your journey to the Cloud in 2014!