The Cloud Change Management Process: An Overview

The human inclination to be apprehensive about change is often a bigger risk to a cloud migration than any technological challenge. A lack of end-user engagement, communications, and training during a cloud transformation only elevates and increases these concerns. Because of these challenges, organizations are turning to change management to ensure that the human side of a digital transformation goes as smoothly as the technological side. That said, change management in the context of a cloud migration is still something of a new concept for many, and as such the majority of organizations are in the dark about the process and what a good program looks like.

The Cloud Change Management Process for HR and Finance

Before getting into the nitty-gritty, let’s take a 40K feet view of the change management journey for an HR or finance transformation.

As you may have guessed, there is no single approach to change management; there are a number of different variations and they don’t all necessarily work the same way. At Collaborative Solutions, we use a modified version of the Prosci© methodology; one that is tailored specifically to HR and finance digital transformations and that has been modified over time based on our extensive experience.

We first think of the cloud change management process in terms of phases, and each phase comes with its own series of steps. The three change management process phases are:

  1. Preparing for Change
  2. Managing Change
  3. Reinforcing Change

While every digital transformation is different, the cloud change management process should always incorporate these three phases.

The Cloud Change Management Process Phases

Phase 1 - Preparing for Change

Preparing for an HR or Finance transformation can be a daunting task. Enterprise-wide changes can affect how almost every function of the business works. Strategic and careful consideration of core change management concepts at the beginning of a project, such as identifying stakeholders, change impacts, executive sponsors, change champions, and aligning on a strategy, is paramount for a successful execution down the road.

The cloud change management process steps in this phase typically include the following:

Identifying Change Impacts and Stakeholders

Before beginning a cloud migration, it’s important to understand the who and the what of a change. Who are the individual stakeholder groups affected by the transformation and what are those effects going to be? Common stakeholder groups in cloud migrations include employees, managers, executive leaders, and core users like HR business partners. Understanding who those individual groups are and how they will be affected allows us to start considering what they’ll need to be successful before the migration begins.

Selecting Executive Sponsors

Collaborative Solutions can help executive sponsors pinpoint project milestones and events where their visibility and active participation will be most effective. We can support executive sponsor communications to the business and involve them in various cloud-migration promotion activities throughout the project lifecycle. We can also prepare executives with collateral and messaging to help them build a coalition of sponsorship amongst their peers and other leaders across the organization, so that your leadership team can help support the cloud-migration from all angles.

Research for Prosci© indicates that the single greatest predictor of a successful large-scale change effort is active and visible executive sponsors. Identifying sponsors early in the preparation stage is essential to strategic planning and gives you a head start on setting expectations and determining how to leverage them throughout the project.

Developing a Strategy

Ultimately, these pieces and more can be rolled into a holistic change management strategy that can be used to set up the entire project lifecycle. There are several other considerations that feed into the strategy – such as identifying the best ways to communicate and train employees and the effectiveness of modalities (which can be determined by change impacts and stakeholder assessments). A well-though-out strategy should also include project goals as well as high-level decisions around any changes in the HR or finance support model once the cloud migration is complete.

For instance, what do you hope to achieve by migrating to the cloud? Greater self-service access? Less paper-focused processes? Defining these goals prior to go-live will help down the line when your organization looks at key performance indicators (KPIs) and begins to measure the success of the change program.

Phase 2 – Managing Change

After completing the preparation phase, it’s time to finalize and carry out your plans. When managing a cloud migration, it’s paramount that you include a communications plan and an end-user training and curriculum plan. The decisions made and discussions had during the preparation stage makes it significantly easier to bring these plans to life during the management stage.

Here are the cloud change management process steps in this phase:

Identifying Champions

A critical element of success for cloud migrations is the initiation of something that we call a Change Champion Network. A change champion is someone that can be enlisted to help support the change effort across the organization. Identifying a network of change champions that can help cascade messaging and exponentially increase the number of employees reached is one of the biggest ways change management can make the people-side of your digital transformation successful. Not only can they help spread the message, but they can also serve as an integral feedback channel throughout the project so that the change management team can keep a pulse on the unique needs of each stakeholder group.

Developing Training Plans

Collaborative Solutions can help you identify the most effective mediums for your organization by looking at the training methods that have been effective in the past as well as the training trends we see in the marketplace. We also provide best practices based on our collective experience leading successful cloud-migration change initiatives for organizations of all size for more than a decade

In this step, training plans for end-users are developed based on the impacted stakeholders and their corresponding change impacts. Training plans should include an eclectic use of mediums that are identified as being effective for the organization. Training plans should include the who, the what, the how and the when – who needs to be trained, what do they need to be trained on, how are they going to be trained, and when do they need to be trained by.

Creating a Communication Plan

We can develop a communications plan based on the stakeholder groups, change impacts, most effective communication modalities. A communications plan should be multi-modal and use a variety of communication channels to reach a wide audience.

Central to the communication plan are the Change Champions. This network can help cascade messaging in a grassroots way – if the champions are provided with key messages, they can pass that information on in a nuanced way to those in their location, business unit, or sphere of influence.

Phase 3 – Reinforcing Change

Reinforcement in cloud migrations is much more than just acknowledging that the technical implementation is complete. The reinforcement stage includes tracking adoption and performance, diagnosing gaps so that corrective action can be taken, and acknowledging/celebrating successes.

Tracking Performance

Tools like readiness assessments and surveys are used by the change management teams to get a sense of end-users’ attitudes towards and preparedness for the cloud migration during all phases of the project and into post-go-live. If KPIs have already been defined during the preparation stage, those metrics can be extracted once the cloud migration is complete and the system goes live. System and adoption metric reports often come out-of-the-box and provide a great organic source for these important metrics.  

Diagnosing Gaps and Implementing Corrective Action

Based on any end-user feedback and adoption metrics, it’s possible to identify gaps in adoption and determine why they are occurring.

  • If awareness of the change is the issue, then continue or adjust messaging.
  • If users are disinterested in the change, then the incentives in place may not be effective. It’s also important to continue reiterating the practical end-user benefits of adoption.
  • If users don’t know how to participate in the change, then the training materials may be to blame.
  • If users are struggling to act with the change, then look at your support model and ensure that employees can and know where to get help.
  • If the change isn’t sticking, examine the change from the cultural and operational standpoint to make sure that there are reward systems in place that encourage end-users to adopt the system.

Acknowledging Successes

Remember to pat yourself on the back. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that the migration to the cloud is a journey, not necessarily a destination. However, acknowledging various milestones throughout the project lifecycle, including go-live, is important.

Recognizing the efforts of your project team, members of your change champion network, and other important stakeholders is also key for morale. It builds change capacity and comradery amongst members of the organization for future iterations of change.

Acknowledgment should be public, involve key executive sponsors or stakeholders, and involve the employee’s manager or management chain.

Going Beyond the Change Management Process Steps

While digital transformation is all about technology, people are at the heart of the process and are what will ultimately lead it to succeed. By following a proven change management methodology, we ensure that the human and technological elements of a deployment are in alignment and, as a result, will speed up the time-to-value of your digital transformation.

Collaborative Solutions can help you to move through the different change management process phases of a cloud migration. Our collective expertise in both the cloud migration and change management spaces uniquely positions us to empower our customers. By strategically planning for, managing, and reinforcing change, we help our customers increase end-user adoption, minimize resistance, and get the absolute most of their cloud migrations and digital transformations.

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