As an IT leader, you understand a successful cloud transformation positions IT as a business enabler, rather than a curator of infrastructure. Adopting the cloud is more than simply moving your on-prem instance to a provider’s servers and going on with business as usual. The flexibility, scalability, and security of the cloud allows businesses to deliver value in ways that were not dreamed of outside of science fiction novels in earlier generations. Cloud transformation is about the whole system – people, processes, data, and tools. When cloud transformation is done right, it’s a true game changer. Getting it right requires you to focus on your people, not just technology enabling them. Here are tips to help you do that.

Connect the Dots

Whether you’re focused on adopting the cloud, modernizing your systems, or getting more from your data, helping your business solve problems and overcome challenges are the driving forces. People will need to work differently to achieve your desired results. If you’ve tried to change your own habits – working out, reading more, going to bed earlier – you know that influencing human behavior isn’t easy. To help people navigate these changes and thrive, it’s especially important to connect these dots:

  • How the solution will help employees solve problems and overcome challenges they face in their day to day work.
  • What people will need to do differently and what support will be available to help them do that.

Start with the Home Team, But Don’t End There

The first place to start is with the IT teams. Whether the solution includes provisioning firewalls to migrate an on-prem intranet to SharePoint Online, modernizing millions of lines of COBOL code and migrating subsystems into Microsoft Azure, harnessing cloud-native services and DevOps practices, unleashing data intelligence through cloud-based outage tracking systems that incorporate Power BI, or automating workflows with Power Apps, people from different IT teams will need to work together to get the right solutions in place. This means communication and collaboration across IT teams, as well as within teams, is more important than ever.

Ensuring that all your business’ IT teams understand how they are an important part of the solution and ensuring they have access to the support they need to perform successfully are critical tasks. However, teams outside of IT are also likely to be impacted, whether it’s HR needing to update policies or documentation as a result of the new tools, or the entire company’s workforce using new communication and collaboration tools.

Ensure You Have a Complete Solution

Take a closer look at whose work will be impacted, what the areas of impact are, and the likely degree of impact. This will help you manage risk by ensuring you have a complete solution and that you can wisely deploy resources. If you have accelerated the deployment of cloud-based collaboration tools in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and are proceeding with immediate implementation of tooling, you can use this guidance to determine the gaps in a complete solution and what’s needed to close the loop. Here are three questions to help you identify the impact that your solution needs to address:

Step 1 – Whose day to day work is impacted?

  • IT Teams
  • Employees
  • Business Units
  • Customers
  • Other Stakeholders

Step 2 – What are the areas impacted?

  • Roles
  • Processes
  • Tools
  • Actions/Work behaviors
  • Mindsets/views

Step 3 – What is the level of impact on the day to day work?

  • Low – Small change in one or two areas
  • Medium – Medium change in one area or multiple areas impacted
  • High – Significant change in one or more areas or small change but significant consequences if the change is not adopted well

The greater the level of impact, the more important it is to have enough support in place. How much support is enough? To answer that, take a closer look at the likely obstacles, then put support in place to clear the path.

Anticipate Obstacles and Proactively Clear the Path

With the impact clear, it’s time to anticipate obstacles that will be faced as people adopt the new roles, processes, tools, actions/work behaviors or mindsets/views they need for successful results to be achieved.

For example, let’s say your company is migrating to a central repository and communication platform. Employees will benefit from a more seamless work experience across devices and be able to access on-demand resources, get answers to their questions, and resolve issues faster. Employees will need to know how to find the information they need in a timely manner, and they will need to know whether to use e-mail, instant messaging, or post to a discussion channel for their specific business scenarios.

Most obstacles fall into one of four categories:

  • Knowing: Do those impacted know what is changing and why they are an important part of the solution?
  • Caring: Do they care about the problems the new tool, system or processes will help solve?
  • Norming: Do they know what is expected of them? Does their leadership (and other influencers) demonstrate through consistent words and actions that this is important?
  • Performing: Can they do what is expected of them? How will they get feedback? Are incentives aligned with the desired performance? Are there any new challenges that they are likely to face and have these been accounted for?

A complete solution anticipates these challenges and proactively builds in support by considering the experiences people have and the support they need specific to the business scenarios they are engaged in on a regular basis.


Wherever you are on your cloud transformation journey, make sure you are considering the experiences and support that people need to have in order to successfully navigate changes in roles, processes, and tooling to thrive. The sooner people start to thrive, the sooner your company gets its ROI with business problems solved and challenges overcome. Ultimately, a complete cloud transformation solution must be tech-fueled, but people-focused.

When you think about your organization’s cloud strategy, mindset may not be one of the first things you think about, but mindset is crucial. Adopting a cloud mindset has been called the “single most important” predictor of cloud success (Lewis, 2017, p. 44). Why? Because it is key to aligning people, processes, technology, and culture necessary for cloud transformation to take place on an enterprise-scale rather than as a one-off project with limited scope.

What is a Cloud Mindset?

Mindset refers to your set of attitudes or ways of thinking. Carol Dweck (2006), Stanford professor and popular author, defines mindset as “the view you adopt for yourself” (p.6). Although a given mindset isn’t right or wrong, some mindsets are significantly more advantageous than others in a specific context.

Take for example a top-notch engineer who has developed a reputation for personally solving difficult problems. The engineer’s stellar individual contributor mindset has enabled him to make a difference for the business and achieve success. When that engineer is promoted to manager, it may be tempting for him to stay in the same mindset and to personally solve the problems his team now encounters. That mindset won’t allow him or his team to be successful in the long run. He will need to make the switch to a manager mindset, where he is focused on helping the team develop their own capacity to solve problems.

A cloud mindset has two key components:

  1. Willingness to rethink the role of technology and how it can be leveraged across the enterprise for strategic advantage and mission fulfillment.
  2. Willingness to rethink the value proposition across the organization, considering where alignments in people, processes, and culture are needed to deliver value more effectively and efficiently.

Rethinking Technology

Rethinking technology means moving from the view of technology from static resources to dynamic service, like the difference between a noun and verb, or between a concrete example and abstract formula. One example of this trend is de-emphasizing rigid architecture in favor of infrastructure-as-code (Chung & Rankin, 2017). Cloud is an enterprise capability/system delivering compute power where and when needed to help people and the business accomplish work, not an add-on service or outsourced data center (Wyckoff & Pilat, 2017).  Cloud supercharges the speed and agility of the business, allocating and reallocating resources nearly instantaneously. Through the cloud’s scalability, there is a tremendous opportunity to move to continuous improvement/continuous delivery and try new ways of working that deliver better value to end-users – customers and employees.

Rethinking Work

Just as rigid architecture can be rethought as code, a cloud mindset enables work to be reconceptualized as data transformation and stewardship. Examples of this may include:

  • creating a document
  • monitoring a network
  • setting permission levels
  • configuring a tenant
  • collecting credit card information to securely process a transaction
  • sending an email
  • constructing a building from blueprints
  • having a conversation with a coworker

Get the right data to the right place at the right time and with the right interface so it can be used by the worker, humans, and bots. Thinking in this way can help the business identify strengths, opportunities, and blockers that can be addressed, making work more productive, cost-effective, and potentially more meaningful.

Rethinking Value Delivery

Thinking of work as data transformation and stewardship opens new ways of considering how the business delivers and can deliver value. Delivering value is dependent on the ability to move data across the organization, and technology serves to increase flow or throughput.

A cloud mindset views customers and employees as important partners, seeking to understand their experiences and striving to make their experiences better by delivering the right data to the right people at the right time in a user-friendly way. Understanding what employees and customers perceive as valuable can help business leaders make the most informed decisions.

As decisions are made, there will be tradeoffs. For example, a company that moves payroll and talent management to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) will gain organizational agility but will have to trade a certain degree of customization based on the limitations of the SaaS. Because experiences are valued, the business will ensure support is in place to navigate the tradeoffs and changes.

Rethinking Silos

Silos in organizations have gotten a bad reputation. Silos enable a clear definition of workstreams, roles, and responsibilities and promote work being done by the subject matter experts. The key is to ensure the boundary is set up so that needed data can flow into and out of the silo for productive work. A cloud mindset thinks of silo boundaries as interfaces and intentionally designs them so that data that needs to move across the interface can be shared securely. The goal is to make the interface more user friendly so that the silo does not unnecessarily slow down the movement of data needed to deliver business value.

The proliferation of cross-functional teams is one way that businesses are trying to address this, although there are limitations. Cross-functional teams can help share data across functional silos, but often processes are created within a silo. This is where the view of silo boundaries as interfaces can be especially helpful. Mapping the steps, inputs, and outputs in a process or series of processes that span functional units is a good tool to identify where interface improvements are needed to improve data throughput. Service blueprints are another option. Service blueprints visualize different components of a service (e.g., people, resources, and physical/digital artifacts) that are tied to touchpoints on a customer’s or employee’s journey.

Rethinking Culture

Organizational culture is like the operating system of the organization and refers to the collective values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that are active in the organization. Staying with the operating system metaphor, cloud transformation has trouble running in certain environments. Like with mindset, this does not mean that certain organizational cultures are better than others, but it does mean that in the context of cloud transformation, cultures can promote or hinder cloud transformation:

  • Where culture is aligned to a cloud mindset, then cloud transformation accelerates.
  • Where culture is not aligned to a cloud mindset, then there is friction.

Often, the effect is mixed, with some elements of culture aligned and others not (e.g., Fegahli, 2019). It is important to capitalize on the strengths of the current culture while overcoming friction that can stunt cloud transformation if left unaddressed through effective change management. The goal of cloud transformation is to help your organization be its best, leveraging the cloud to do so. The goal is not to turn your organization into a copy of another organization or another organization’s culture. With that said, helping the organization be receptive to and successful in cloud transformation requires addressing culture.

Configuring Your Mindset

Our experience working with federal and commercial clients and the research on successful cloud adoption points to the following settings as optimal for configuring a cloud mindset:

Setting Item
On Switch Start with the expectation to learn, grow, and iterate
Off Switch Wait to figure out all the details before starting
On Switch Views cloud as an enterprise capability/system delivering compute power where and when needed to help people and the business accomplish work
Off Switch Views cloud as an add-on service or outsourced data center
On Switch Understands that work is ultimately data stewardship/transformation
On Switch Focused on getting the right data to the right place at the right time and with the right interface so it can be used by the worker, humans, and bots
Off Switch Believes that new tools and a little training are all people need to make the transition
On Switch Knows customers and employees are important partners, values their experiences, and strives to make their experiences better
Off Switch Thinks that cloud technology should not impact the organization’s culture
On Switch Thinks that helping culture better align with delivering business value better is a key part of cloud transformation

Cloud transformation reaches all areas of the business. This includes upgrading and syncing legacy systems as well as aligning organizational structure, processes, people, culture, and leadership to unleash the benefits of the cloud at an enterprise scale. Although this is not as straightforward as configuring a tenant, it is worth it. Successful cloud transformation starts with adopting a cloud mindset and then helping the other pieces align.

Want to learn more about managing changes associated with cloud transformation? Stay tuned for my next post on the people side of transformation.


  • Chung, J. & Rankin (2017). How to manage organizational change and cultural impact during cloud transformation. SlideShare presentation.
  • Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc.
  • Feghali, R. (2019). The “Microservic-ing” of Culture. CHIPS Magazine.
  • Lewis (2017). Cloud success is about changing your mindset. NZ Business + Management. 31(6), 44-45.
  • Wyckoff A, Pilat D. Key Issues for Digital Transformation in the G20.; 2017.
ACA Compliance Group needed help streamlining the communications landscape and its fast-growing workforce to collaborate more effectively. AIS recommended starting small with Microsoft Teams adoption and utilizing Microsoft Planner to gain advocates, realize quick wins, and gather insights to guide the larger rollout.

Starting Their Cloud Transformation Journey

The cloud brings many advantages to both companies and their employees, including unlimited access and seamless collaboration. However, to unleash the full power of cloud-based collaboration, a company must select the right collaboration technology that fits their business needs and ensures employees adopt the technology and changes in practices and processes. This ultimately benefits the business through increased productivity and satisfaction.

In early 2019, an international compliance firm with around 800 employees contacted AIS to help migrate multiple email accounts into a single Office 365 (O365) Exchange account. They invited AIS to continue their cloud journey and help them:

  • Understand their existing business processes and pain points across multiple time zones, countries, departments, and teams.
  • Provide their employees with a secure, reliable, and integrated solution to effective communication and collaboration.
  • Increase employee productivity by improving file and knowledge sharing and problem-solving.
  • Reduce cost from licensing fees for products duplicating features already available through the company’s enterprise O365 license.

Kicking Off a Customer Immersion Experience

First, AIS provided a Microsoft Customer Immersion Experience (CIE) demonstration, which served as the foundational step to introduce all O365 tools. After receiving stakeholder feedback, needs, and concerns, we collaboratively determined the best order for rolling out the O365 applications. The client selected to move forward with Microsoft Teams adoption as the first step to implementing collaboration software in the organization.

Pilots for Microsoft Teams Adoption

Next, we conducted a pilot with two departments to quickly bring benefits to the organization without a large cost investment and to gather insights that would inform the overall Teams adoption plan and strategy for the entire organization. We confirmed with pilot study employees that they saw and welcomed the benefits that Microsoft Teams provides, including:

  • Reduced internal emails.
  • Seamless communication and collaboration among (remote) teams/departments.
  • Increased productivity, efficiency, and transparency.
  • Centralized and accessible location for files, documents, and resources in Teams.

The pilot study also found that adopting Microsoft Teams in the organization would require a paradigm shift. Many employees were used to email communication, including sending attachments back and forth that was hard to track. In addition, while some departments had sophisticated collaboration tools, a common collaboration tool across the company did not exist. For web conferencing, for example, different departments preferred different tools, such as GoToMeeting and WebEx, and most of them incurred subscription fees. Employees had to install multiple tools on their computers to collaborate across departmental boundaries.


Embracing Benefits of Microsoft Teams with Organizational Change Management (OCM)

To help employees understand the benefits of Teams, embrace the new tool, and willingly navigate the associated changes. For the organization-wide deployment and Microsoft Teams adoption, we formed a project team with different roles, including: a Project Manager, Change Manager, UX researcher, Business Analyst, and Cloud Engineer. Organizational Change Management (OCM), User Experience (UX), and business analysis were as critical as technical aspects of the cloud implementation.

Building on each other’s expertise, the project team worked collaboratively and closely with technical and business leaders at the company to:

  • Guide communication efforts to drive awareness of the project and support it.
  • Identify levers that would drive or hinder adoption and plan ways to promote or mitigate.
  • Equip department leaders with champions and facilitate end-user Teams adoption best practices.
  • Guide end users on how to thrive using Teams through best practices and relevant business processes.
  • Provide data analytics and insights to support target adoption rates and customize training.
  • Use an agile approach to resolve both technical issues and people’s pain points, including using Teams for private chats, channel messages, and meetings.
  • Develop a governance plan that addressed technical and business evolution, accounting for the employee experience.

Cutting Costs & Boosting Collaboration

At the end of the 16-week engagement, AIS helped the client achieve its goals of enhanced collaboration, cost savings, and 90% Teams use with positive employee feedback. The company was well-positioned to achieve 100% by the agreed-upon target date.

Our OCM approach significantly contributed to our project success, which is grounded in the Prosci ADKAR® framework, a leading framework for change management based on 20 years of research. As Prosci described on their website, “ADKAR is an acronym that represents the five tangible and concrete outcomes that people need to achieve for lasting change”:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to support the change
  • Knowledge of how to change
  • Ability to demonstrate skills and behaviors
  • Reinforcement to make the change stick

The OCM designed was to provide busy executives, leaders, and end-users with key support and insights for action to achieve each outcome necessary for Teams adoption efficiently and effectively.

If you would like to participate in a CIE demonstration or learn more about adopting cloud-based collaboration tools and practices in your company, we are here to help!