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Migrating to the Public Cloud: A Framework for Change

Danielle Royston
Danielle Royston

Moving to the public cloud is a big change for many businesses, especially those with deep-rooted processes that are resistant to change. Businesses that want to undertake a successful public cloud migration need to understand that migration is only a technology change, and to be truly successful they need to focus on installing a culture change — focusing on the HR side as well.

That might sound daunting, but luckily there’s a framework that I know works, which I’ve taken from my friend and strategic HR leader, Jim Abolt.

Most people don’t put any more thought towards HR beyond “how much vacation am I owed?” But when used correctly, strategic HR can dramatically improve the inner workings of your company. Strategic HR leaders work with business leaders to help them successfully transform their business — and that’s exactly what Jim does.

When I became CEO of Optiva, I was embarking on a plan to turn around the business and I needed help to make sure I was successful. So I called up Jim and he shared with me his change framework, which helped me lay out my plan for the future, how we were going to do it, the ways I was going to motivate everyone, and how we were going to execute.

The steps are simple, and if you work through this framework step-by-step, you’ll cement the change you’ve begun to implement and make it permanent!

STEP ONE: Communicate the Vision

The goal of this step is to make sure everyone understands where we’re going and why.

The why is really crucial. Why are you moving to cloud? In communicating the vision you should be able to succinctly describe why it’s imperative that we change, and why that future state is a place we all want to get to as quickly as possible.

Get ready to sound like a broken record, because you’re going to be repeating this message time and again — so succinct, consistent clarity is key. You’ll know you’re on the right track when the very last person in your organization can repeat the vision back to you just as clearly as you’ve been relaying it. Practice will make perfect here, and it’s important to be honest when self-assessing how it’s going and how effectively you are communicating your vision.

Great things to ask yourself: Are you reaching 100% of your audience? If not, why not? And how do you close that gap to scale your transformation efforts? If you’re not good at explaining change and inspiring people to get on board, your ability to actually make that change happen will always be limited. Could you be writing a brief email each week to the whole organization updating them on what’s occurring and reminding them of where you’re heading? Whatever you’re doing, you can always do more.

The most common mistake I see leaders make on STEP ONE is underestimating just how much of a push it takes, consistently driving home the message before people “get it.”

Inspiration comes from simply stated ideas that appeal to people’s emotions. Becoming great at explaining that idea in a way that gets people to embrace it will be an invaluable addition to your leadership repertoire.

Hammer. Home. That. Message!

STEP TWO: Create the Desire

Okay, now that people “get it” and know where we’re heading, it’s time to make everyone want to get there as badly as you do.

Support for change will always be spotty. Some people embrace it, while others resist it. Nevertheless, you need to work tirelessly to get people on board — or get them off the ship. That’s right, you read that correctly: people who are not on board with your direction need to LEAVE. You should take the time to encourage and support people who are trying to come along on the journey, but don’t waste time on laggards. Just show them the door.

So how do you get people energized and on board? A big part is to clearly describe what’s in it for them. In my experience with moving businesses to the cloud, what resonated was pointing out how much more valuable my teams become as individuals when their CVs and resumes are updated with public cloud experience. It could be that you emphasize how mundane and monotonous tasks will be eliminated — “the boring work” will be gone with more time instead to work on more exciting, strategic projects.

People will need a really good reason to rip up the “old way of doing things” to go through the pain of implementing a new idea — so get them excited and create the desire! Inspire commitment, rather than demand compliance.

Unfortunately, this is the step lots of leaders ignore. That’s a big mistake. Inspired performance beats perfunctory effort any day.

STEP THREE: Model the Way

This one is one of the most simple, but also the easiest steps to forget. You gotta embody the change!

How passionate are you really about the change you’re trying to drive? If you’re “meh” on the whole public cloud thing and just see it as a necessary means to an end, that energy will be palpable in your organization and nothing will change.

Driving big change in an organization is so hard that if you’re not personally excited about it, chances are neither will the employees who are several levels away from you.

What can help here is to look at the effectiveness of the rest of your leadership team. I’ve never been part of a successful change led by one person, no matter how good that person was. There was always a coalition of leaders guiding the overall change effort. Who are the critical people sharing the leadership mantle with you? Who on your team can get you motivated and re-energized when bumps in the road occur so your cloud migration doesn’t stall out?

Get together as a team to discuss the change and enlist their participation in formulating the plans for moving forward. I know you’re busy, but it’s worth your time — so make the time, because this plan needs to be the team plan, not just yours.

STEP FOUR: Change the Work

This is the step where people are beginning to work in a “new way” consistent with the vision.

It’s one thing to talk about change; it’s another very different thing to actually do it. Maybe you’ve already started implementing lots of changes and you’ve got the organization moving. However, the key is to execute at least one VERY BIG CHANGE very well. This will show the organization that you’re both serious and highly effective.

Ask yourself: what is the most critical change needed to ensure the success of the new organization? Is it how much cost you save from your move to the public cloud? Or the increased time to market on a new service roll out? Or how about an improved customer NPS? Or is it something else? 

Once you decide on your flagship change, you then need to drive the change home so emphatically that everyone understands the old way of doing business is dead, and a new way has replaced it. People need to feel like you’ve burned the boats and there’s no turning back on the old approach, and only the new way of thinking is accepted in your culture. You can then build on the momentum of that one very big change to introduce other new ideas for working more effectively.

STEP FIVE: Make it Stick

Now we make the “new way” of working the “usual way” of working.

To lock in the new behaviors, you need wholesale change in the systems of your organization. You may need a new organization structure, new performance measures, new bonus design, etc. — so spend time with your HR team on what systems need to change to support the new way of working.

You may need to take a step back and review the entire organization design. You may want to use McKinsey’s 7-S Framework as it’s both easy-to-understand and comprehensive. Based on the results of the review, you should sequence and prioritize the systemic changes you feel are necessary for success. The orderly implementation of these changes is what ultimately will result in lasting change at your organization. Again, this would be a very good discussion with your leadership team; don’t try to do this alone.

Some of this may seem a bit academic, but it’s meant to be practical advice to make your desired change a reality. In my experience working with and consulting businesses, there are plenty that don’t follow this advice! I find that going through the five steps helps me think comprehensively about the overall task at hand, as opposed to getting lost in the details. I hope it will help you and your team do the same. Now go get ’em!

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About the Author

Danielle Royston (DR) is Telecom’s Leading Public Cloud Evangelist. She has 25 years of enterprise software experience — the last 10+ as a CEO specializing in turnarounds. Previously, she was CEO of Optiva Inc. (TSX: OPT), where she pivoted the company to become a leader in cloud-native BSS/OSS on the public cloud. Now, she is on a mission to help the telecom industry move 100% to the public cloud and more fully embrace all the competitive advantages hyperscalers have to offer.

DR is widely recognized as an industry thought leader and has been featured by Capacity Media, Fast Company, Fierce Wireless, Forbes, Light Reading, Mobile World Live,, TelecomTV, The Harvard Business Review, TM Forum, VanillaPlus, and more.

Visit to learn more. Listen to DR’s Telco in 20 podcast to get the latest insights and best practices on how the public cloud is transforming telecom, and subscribe to her free newsletter. Connect with DR on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter @TelcoDR.


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