Increase in cloud deployments sees change management come to the fore

Cloud delivery models for enterprise applications have brought a host of benefits to business, including speed of delivery, reduced cost, better line-of-business management, and access to constantly upgraded software.

There is also a perception in the market that because many cloud solutions offer slick, intuitive user interfaces, there is a much reduced need for user training and change management – an ‘implement it and they will come’ mentality.

But Presence of IT (PoIT), which specialises in implementing human resources, payroll and workforce management solutions, is actually observing a significant increase in underutilisation of cloud systems once they are installed.

Shane Grobler, co-chief executive officer, PoIT, says,  “One of the reasons for this is that users are not prepared for the initial deployment or the ongoing product enhancement cycles, so the full potential of the technology is not being delivered to the business.”

To combat this problem, PoIT has reorganised its business to place its People practice at the centre of HR cloud solution deployments, and strengthened the practice with additional specialist HR strategy and business transformation resources.

Enid Hughes, global People practice lead, says that the practice has always been part of PoIT’s service to its clients, but as cloud presents different challenges around change management and adoption, the practice has really been brought to the fore.

“With cloud projects being so short, sharp and generic – there is very little that clients can change about the software – we’re finding that clients need to be really ready, they need to know what their HR strategy is, they need to know how they want their data to look, they need to be very much on the front foot before the implementation starts,” Hughes says.

“We’re also seeing that the project could take 12 weeks, and at the end of the implementation the client needs a lot of support to get the technology adoption and realise the value of the investment.”

As a product agnostic consultancy, the People practice has three objectives in its work with clients: to align their people and technology strategies with their business objectives; support their workforce as they transition to new ways of working; and extract the greatest value from their technology investment as they move to cloud-based, SaaS platforms.

Hughes says that while lines of business are now able to purchase SaaS solutions themselves, they still lack the understanding of how to optimise the software once it is deployed.

“This has led to powerful people management solutions being deployed with little or no formal strategy, minimal organisational change management, and insufficient workforce engagement and training to fully leverage the tools at their disposal,” she says.

Interestingly, what is often cited as one of the key benefits of SaaS solutions – the frequent upgrades and constant product development – is also causing a level of confusion for customers.

“With cloud, there’s amazing R&D and major trends are being addressed by the products, but customers can’t keep up because every quarter there are new features, and they don’t know whether to adopt them or how to adopt them. So it’s the pace of change and the increase in functionality [that’s challenging],” Hughes says. “We’re also risking that the technology is driving the client, rather than the business driving the technology.”

PoIT’s global People practice has four primary competencies, each led by experienced specialists: people strategy and talent, HR transformation, business transition and change, and learning and collaboration.

Because cloud does change the way systems are adopted, the approach to HR transformation, change management and even learning, also must shift.

“We can’t just take an ERP approach and bring it down to a 12 week period – we have to look at different ways of doing change both before and after the technology project, with an approach that matches cloud implementation, which is very iterative and agile,” Hughes said.

Learning also becomes much more of an ongoing process, rather than simply providing a round of training prior to go-live for a traditional ERP system.

By combining these tailored capabilities, and working hand in glove with the technology team, Hughes believes that clients will benefit from assistance with articulating the business case and identifying what they want to achieve, and monitoring how those objectives can be realised through the whole project and beyond, through ongoing support.

“This has always been a fundamental part of Presence of IT, but we’re just seeing that it’s absolutely critical now. It’s not a ‘nice to have’, it’s critical for success.”

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