Cloud Is a Culture Thing: 5 Lessons Learned

by Mark Thomas, VP, Enterprise Architecture, eviCore 

I live in a state that’s steeped in culture. It’s one of the oldest states in the US and proud of its history. There are cultural things that have been here almost from its beginning. But over time, its culture has developed and matured. There are some things that seem like they’ve been around forever, like how excited we get about hunting season. Then, there’s that day late in the fall when South Carolina meets Clemson and folks take passionate sides. The thing is, once upon a time even that wasn’t there. (Clemson had to be founded first.)

So I’m used to culture with all its twists and turns. And that’s good because I’m a vice president at eviCore, a company that’s at the forefront of healthcare management, and our company culture has had to go through a big change. Healthcare is evolving faster than ever before and our intelligent decision approach enables better outcomes for patients, providers, and plans. But, it means we have to be agile. Old legacy infrastructure and systems can’t weigh us down. So, we made a decision to move to the cloud. And, that takes more than just a change in the way IT is set up. A big culture shift has to happen, too.

Culture is key

We spent a significant amount of time trying to change eviCore to a cloud-based culture. I liken it to when industries moved from paper and pencil to mainframes, mainframes to PCs, and PCs to the Internet. There’s always going to be a challenge to the “old way” of doing something. We have made significant progress with this, but I’ve learned some important lessons from the early days when I felt there wasn’t much progress. That’s because we focused too heavily on evaluation and planning and not enough on culture.

Here are 5 cultural lessons I’ve learned while going through the cloud migration process.

1. Treat transformation like a marketing campaign

As soon as possible, try to get everyone in your organization to understand how important cloud migration is. We were too soft from the standpoint of communicating the changes to the organization that will occur. No one should forget that the organization is making this change, not just IT. There will always be some people who won’t be onboard with the changes right away. That’s normal. They just have to understand this is the direction that the organization is moving in.

I recommend starting by communicating the idea of cloud migration to your company as whole so everyone can get on board, ask questions, get used to the idea, etc. I think if we had started out this way, the migration would have moved more smoothly. Our mistake was we just kept saying, “The cloud is coming.” “Get ready for the cloud.” “We’re moving to the cloud.”

By “marketing” cloud, you can persuade people to grow more comfortable with the idea. The goal is to eliminate the fear of failure or of trying something new.

2. Make education a top priority and be creative

Don’t operate on the idea that people will educate themselves about the cloud. Some people at eviCore didn’t understand what exactly the cloud was or how we were using it. That disconnect was a big problem.  A good plan is to start the education process early on and make it a priority, answering these questions:

  • “Why cloud?”
  • “Why is the cloud important?”
  • “What does a move to the cloud mean for the company?”
  • “What does cloud mean for my job?”

People are generally more focused on their job’s day-to-day responsibilities. So, the education should not be left up to them.

Once we realized that we needed to take the lead in helping people understand what was going on, we got creative. We partnered with companies like 10th Magnitude. We also sponsored hackathons and other in-house events to get people excited and to “learn by doing.”

3. Treat security as a partner, not as a roadblock

I noticed at the last Gartner Catalyst conference that other companies were treating security as being a roadblock to cloud migration. I think that approach is misguided.

Security has become so important over the last 10 or so years that management doesn’t want to move forward without a comprehensive security plan in place. Because security is so important, we approached our security team early in the process and made them a partner from the get go. Fortunately, they were already thinking about the move, so any hiccups with the security team never happened. That was a pleasant surprise! Not only that, but now eviCore has a better “security posture” compared to the industry.

4. For cloud to be successful, Infrastructure Services is key

One of the biggest challenges in cloud migration is helping the IS team think in a new way. So invite them to the planning table at the very beginning. They are basically your organization’s gatekeepers. They control the connection to the cloud. And because they are the gatekeepers, this is where the biggest mind shift takes place. They are the core. We didn’t do this and that was a mistake. So, when you’re putting that “transformation marketing campaign” together, IS should be front and center.

5. Clue QA in on the benefits of cloud migration before the launch

QA is very important in a migration, not just for making sure everything works, but also as an implementation partner. So, you need to make sure QA is aware of why you’re moving to the cloud and how they’ll benefit.

During eviCore’s cloud planning calls, not a single member from the QA team joined because no one told them what was in it for them. Unfortunately, this was a problem. They were underwater very quickly. We had to bring them up to speed quickly before launch. It would have been much better if they’d been more aware of what was going on and why.

If I had to do it all over again, I’d still be prepared for surprises

If I were starting over, I really would put these simple lessons into practice. However, I would still try to be prepared for the unforeseen. There are always hiccups in large-scale changes, especially cultural ones. Ultimately culture is a collection of behaviors and this transformation is a complete change in behavior. It’s a complete disruption to the way IT has evolved over time and because of that, the only way to successfully enable the transformation is with a plan and the willingness to adjust as you go.

The good news is that, in the eviCore organization as a whole, we’re starting to see velocity and a willingness to do things in the cloud. There’s finally an understanding and appreciation of the overall vision. So, get out there, market your migration, and go!

By |2018-04-18T19:57:28+00:00November 5th, 2017|