Moving To The Cloud
During the summer of 2018, Ammeon Operations began our journey to the cloud. Many of our back-office functions and ways of working simply did not match the state of the art processes used by our technology teams and our customers. The main issue was we had, over time accrued a technical debt in our back-office technology stack. Our HR and recruitment systems and processes were antiquated and there was no single source of truth on employee data. A number of different systems held together by spreadsheets, the IP in people/s heads and a lot of luck ensured that our dedicated HR team kept the show on the road. Our finance department was also suffering as they were also using out of date software and excel magic. Ensuring payroll and other critical finance functions were delved came with increasing issues.
More broadly, enterprise-level communication was becoming a challenge. With employees on different sites and with an ambition to set up an office in a remote location meant that scaling would be difficult with pockets of employees using different tools. Moreover, the employment market was also adding pressure on our recruitment efforts as the FANG companies all allow remote working and offsite collaboration. We needed to ensure we could have positive communication at a distance.
Failure to update these systems could lead to potential issues with audits or employee dissatisfaction.
At best the issues seemed challenging, at worst overwhelming. So what was our approach to such a big issue?
Create A Big Picture Plan
In small organisations, you don’t always have the luxury of employing technology consultants to determine what internal technology stack you need. However, pulling together the experience from team members in small agile work teams, we quickly worked out a sketch of what we wanted to achieve
- Single source of truth of our data across our different functions
- Access to the data remotely and preferably via mobile
- Scalability for team sizes
- Hosted offsite for business continuity
- Keep an eye on security issues
Then create a box diagram of how all the pieces will fit together and ensure it makes sense. It’s important to have an overall view of what the tools could be.
Decide Where You Want To Start – And Start Small
The challenge of moving to the cloud was big, but we made some calls on which systems would have the greatest value to us and decided to focus on a couple of tools immediately. Don’t try and do it all at once. It’s easy to underestimate how long it can take to roll out even the simplest tools. It’s also easier to start somewhere and get that done rather than having multiple open-ended projects with none working. We decided that we would complete each piece first before moving on to the next component of the system.
Use Tools That Integrate Together
We decided earlier on that the best approach for us would be to choose our new toolsets from the constellation of exciting new SaaS tools which have a per head subscription model. Clearly functionality and cost are important but being able to bolt the different tools together afterwards is also important.
Work closely on the project with IT and other stakeholders. Excite them about the possibility of having systems that they don’t have to install or maintain and simply use.
Get Buy-In From Senior Management
Once you have developed a plan, you need support from senior stakeholders to build out the proposed plan. You may be selling to people who either don’t understand the technology or the reason why it’s important. Often collaborative tools like Slack seem like a gimmick at first; it’s only through usage that everyone sees the true value of these collaborative tools. So what’s the best way to get this through
- Understand what the goals of the business are
It’s important that you know what senior management is trying to achieve. Tailor your message to show how senior management can achieve the company goals through the implementation of the tools.
- Show the real business value
You need to demonstrate to the senior management the value of the tools. Part of it will be about showing it is affordable, but you genuinely need to be able to demonstrate that the ideas will work
- Get a demo of the system and get them to try it out
The great thing about modern systems is they are usually demoed online, so you can either get a remote demo or there are free systems to play with.
- Ensure that management can see that the project is achievable
and in the first instance affordable. Once the value of one of these tools has been seen through usage the next parts will be easier.
Research, Trial and Test
Research thoroughly and get different team members to try the tools that you select to see if they work for them in terms of usability. It’s good to have a range of tools that you can trial and weigh up benefits. Ensure that you have a clear idea of the functionality you need. And ensure that the spec is dictated by the department ( e.g HR, Resourcing, Recruitment, Finance) rather than someone from a different team. They might help in putting together a spec but will fail to understand the nuances of the day to day.
Roadtest different products and then evaluate across functionality, usability, cost and modularity. IT have lots to fear from security issues so make sure they are happy with the supplier and the security specs before going any further.
Ensure that the team who will be using the new system are excited and bought into using it. If they aren’t, rinse and repeat.
Dedicate time to installation, rollout and training
The great thing about SaaS systems is it’s easy to get started. Like any system, there will be challenges ensuring data integrity and accuracy, but all the backend issues are handled by others.
Once you have the system ready, ensure that you invest the time and effort across the team to get it rolled out. There is nothing as sad as seeing the decaying remains of a system that had huge potential but no one used it. Ensure that everyone has the training needed to use the system.
Migrating data from legacy systems to new systems can be time-consuming and sometimes soulless work. Ensure there is plenty of motivation along the way and celebrate once the team (and all the users are up to speed). Remember that one of the biggest challenges can be the changes in ways of working. Have a clear plan for how you want this to work but be open to changes as the team gets used to working in new ways. Listen to the team, get their feedback and update the processes.
Review – Ask How People Find Using The System
Learn from the process. Meet on an ongoing basis throughout the rollout and work out what you could do better next time. Document your learnings or at least share them as a presentation to enhance organisational learning about these systems. Before moving on to the next system, check in to ensure that the front line users are happy with the system and enforce compliance with the tools through management.
Look out for shadow IT projects where people use different software because they think the tool you installed sucks. Be transparent and work with those people to find out what the difficulties are and help them resolve the issues. Do a survey after 6 months and see how people are finding the system and again address issues.
Rinse And Repeat
Armed with the learnings that you have and a process for building and rolling out new systems, use the process to build out all the components on your plan.
Moving to SaaS systems has revolutionised how we work in Ammeon and now, during the time of the Covid 19 Crisis, this investment in systems has prepared us to move seamlessly into home working.