Human Capital: Building A Digital Transformation Team That Delivers

How to get your team to embrace a transition to the cloud.
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Transitioning operations to the cloud requires leaders to ready their company not just technologically but also culturally, so that human capital across their organization understands the reasons for the move, embraces the transition as a positive development for them and doesn’t get bogged down in objections to cloud adoption that can scuttle the process.

Leaders must reckon with five important elements as they try to ensure a cloud transition moves past any “adoption plateau” that often endangers an organization’s efforts once they’ve begun to move operations to the cloud. That was consensus of participants in a recent AWS Virtual Event, “C-Suite Strategies for Designing a Cloud-Enabled Workforce.”

“Most organizations think about the technology and how to re-platform the business,” said one human capital consultant, “but you’ve also got to think about the operating model and workforce to achieve the full return on investment for moving to the cloud.”

These five elements are:

Filling new roles: The required “skills, roles and capabilities change as you’re going to the cloud,” including new positions such as DevOps engineer and cloud-security engineer,” noted the consultant. “You need to understand the new capabilities and roles and then take the folks you’ve got today and map them onto future roles, with a talent plan.”

Creating buy-in: Cloud-transition leaders must “establish new ownership and decision rights and an interaction model between IT and the business” as well as a “rearchitecture” of the work and the organization that “help folks work in a truly agile way in multifunction teams.”

Meeting functional needs: When it comes to human capital, a company’s current resource mix may or may not be adequate to facilitate the transition. “Think about the skills you’ve got right now—who can upskill, and where do I need to hire in or use contractors?”

Establishing a logic: “What kind of a persona do I need to create [for the digital transformation] so that people can easily understand certification and requirements and the need for constant upskilling?”

Enlisting leadership: Transition champions must ensure that the company’s culture can be moved along the path they need. “How can you get leadership to embrace the change?”

The State of Arizona, for example, focused initially on creating buy-in among the affected agencies for its plan to move to Amazon Web Services a few years ago. A Deloitte study identified the opportunity for the state to save up to $30 million a year in an overall IT restructuring in which a transition to the cloud would be a key factor.

“It created a compelling ‘why,’” said a technology leader for the state. “You might think there are compelling technology advantages to a transition to the cloud, but if you want to get someone’s attention, tell them you’ll be able to save them money, and that got the conversation started.”

Yet as agency leaders embraced the transition, he said, it was important for them “to get in front of their people and let them know that they were committed to this path but also committed to them as employees, and that we would invest in their training and their careers. And that would make them more valuable in the market, too.”

A software executive acknowledged that there was internal resistance to his company’s move to the cloud several years ago. One way his leadership team overcame it was to enlist “executive sponsors” for the move as well as “DevOps champions” in engineers and front-line managers.

“We identified these people who were really passionate and excited about the [cloud-transition] opportunity,” he said. “So people could see that at all levels there were people in the organization who wanted to drive this transformation.”

Ishit Vachhrajani, enterprise strategist for AWS, said that “executive education” and creating expectations for leadership is important for a successful transition. “You need to change the conversation and vocabulary in the C-Suite and also make sure you’re leading by example,” he said.

Leaders can also help create buy-in by encouraging “friendly competition among large teams through gamifying training, certification and goal-setting,” he said. And, working with HR departments, cloud-transition leaders should restructure compensation and job-title creation “no longer based on the size of the team and the budget but based on the impact on customers.”

For more stories of innovation, lessons and best practices, check out AWS Online Exec Connect & Executive Focus event series.

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