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11 Min Read

Cloud Transformation and the Workplace Culture Revolution

August 27, 2020 / Leon Sayers

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that organisations of all shapes and sizes, government and commercial, are as nimble, reactive and adaptable as they need to be to survive.

Less than a year ago, the idea of government departments and entire companies being dispatched to work remotely from home would have been laughable, yet we here we are. Whole workforces were mobilised in just days as organisations leaned on VPNs or rolled out long mulled over cloud-based applications.

Here at Unisys we moved 98% of our global workforce to work from home in just 48 hours – this flexible response was largely enabled by the fact that 95% of our business applications reside in the cloud.

The speed at which many organisations have adapted and changed in Australia has been truly admirable – but as we settle into this brave new world of remote working the time has come to question what technology has been implemented and whether workplaces really understand how to use it to its full potential?

Organisations who cannot answer these questions effectively will soon start to feel the sting of rushed tech investments as processes slow down, productivity declines but bills and invoices continue to climb.

The impacts of COVID-19 have fundamentally changed the way we work. It’s time for organisations to take a step back, assess their tech strategy and ready themselves for a cultural revolution in the workplace.

Why assessing cloud strategy early matters

Australian and New Zealand organisations aren’t new to cloud. Research undertaken by Unisys revealed 99% of Australian organisations, and 94% of New Zealand organisations, have migrated to the cloud to some degree.

However, according to the Unisys Cloud Success Barometer™, more than one third (39%) of Australian organisations and over a half (58%) of New Zealand organisations considered they had failed to realise notable benefits from cloud computing. Why the disappointment you ask? The answer, more often than not, is because the organisation did not integrate their cloud migration plan into their broader business transformation strategy.

Unisys recently worked with an Australian government agency which had aging infrastructure that was high risk of a security breach. They required a complete IT transformation and chose to move their IT environment to the cloud to use a more secure, flexible, consumption-based model to support the needs of its users. The result is a secure hybrid cloud, ready for growth. From the start of the project a strong emphasis was placed not just on introducing new technology, but how the team would adapt to working in this new cloud-based environment.

The project is a great example of how business integration with a focus on the end-user can drive organisational and operational change to transform the way people work.

If the end user isn’t part of the journey of digital transformation and doesn’t understand why or how it benefits them, then adoption and use of the technology is doomed from the start.

One way of determining an organisation’s true understanding of the technology available to it is the presence or volume of shadow IT, where workers introduce their own technology solutions because they either don’t understand, or don’t like the services and applications available to them.

According to the Unisys Digital Workplace Divide study, conducted before COVID-19, in just one month 26% of Australians and 35% of New Zealanders had downloaded PC software, and 29% of Australians and 36% of New Zealanders had downloaded mobile apps, not supported by the employer’s IT team.

One in three (32%) of these employees said that they downloaded these apps and software unsupported by IT in order to meet a need the company didn’t provide an alternative for.

However, unapproved IT, apps and tools can incur huge financial and security risks to a business. A recent Forbes Insights survey found that more than one in five organisations have experienced a cyber event due to an unsanctioned IT resource.

A roadmap to success

A key element to successful digital transformation begins with building a strategic roadmap to drive the business case for upgrading to cloud technology. It’s not just about the benefit of OpEx vs CapEx, but how the strategy will transform the working environment and deliver a better result to the end customer.

Put simply, a new tech upgrade for the business won’t do the work itself. At the centre of the business strategy should be improving staff experience.

According to the 2019 Unisys Cloud Success Barometer™, Australasian organisations that integrated cloud as part of their business strategy saw the greatest positive gains to help boost revenue, gain competitive advantage, improve productivity and manage costs. Rather than a ‘lift and shift’ approach, successful cloud implementation requires the right framework at the outset, with continual innovation and updates over time.

The purpose of using cloud services and applications isn’t to drive automation and cut jobs, but to find ways technology can enhance the way employees operate, making them more effective and productive.

The value of the employee experience

Organsations are constantly undergoing a cyclical evolution of technology and digital services. Accordingly, workplaces need to create a culture where change and transformation is expected and consistent.

A good place to start is to conduct focus groups and have conversations with employees on what processes and operations are efficient and what are slowing them down. It’s important that the business has a clear understanding of the tools needed by staff in order to do their jobs successfully.

It also takes employees on the journey of digital and organisational transformation which increases their understanding of how to interact and use new technology and processes.

It’s crucial to include and analyse the employee experience during the entire journey of organisational change, including execution. One of the most challenging parts of digital transformation is getting employees to understand and move towards ways to help the business make critical decisions based on real data about how operations are functioning; instead of focusing on the everyday mundane tasks that need to be completed.

Unisys recommends each organisation have a centre of excellence which identifies gaps in the business and brings together internal resources so they can be shared among groups. It’s a key element to help employees understand how the business and its teams are structured and offers a sense of drive, purpose and an area of interest to progress into.

The collaborative process additionally enables the organisation to continue evolving their strategy and roadmap to match the technology.

For example, if an organisation today identifies that they may not have a great data analytics team, there is an opportunity to focus on that area and offer staff the opportunity to become data ‘champions’ and thus progress their careers/skillsets in multiple areas as well as enriching the organisations capabilities.

Although this is a clear benefit for both parties, workplaces must remember that change fatigue is real and happens easily. It’s important to celebrate change and keep up morale when it comes to updating processes.

Bringing staff on the organisational transformation journey from the start will yield better results for the business in the long term.

When an organisation is ready to implement new projects, it’s ‘champions’ will be good to go; already thinking about how this latest update will improve their working environment, enhance service delivery and ultimately drive value for their customers or citizens.