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Four Change Management Strategies to Foster Successful Cloud Transformation at Financial Institutions

iStock 1250474095 - Global Banking | Finance
Cenk Ipeker - Global Banking | Finance

Cenk Ipeker

By Cenk Ipeker, General Manager, Cloud, NICE Actimize

In recent years, the financial services industry has seen a paradigm shift in the cloud adoption conversation from “when it will happen” to “it’s happening right now.” Many financial institutions today deploy cloud as part of their core computing infrastructures. However, cloud transformation is a strategic decision that extends beyond the borders of IT to encompass people, leadership, organizational culture, skill sets, and operational models. It’s challenging and deeply personal, and the mindset of the operation will impact an organization’s ability to embrace the changes swiftly and effectively.

Change management is a crucial component of the cloud journey. It can play a considerable role in capitalizing upon the long-term cloud value, such as minimizing downtime, accessing emerging technologies, accelerating speed to market, and improving innovation opportunities. This mindset change involves several aspects, like relinquishing tech ownership, determining which processes are still relevant, and upskilling and reorganizing labor resources.

Considering the magnitude of cloud transformations, leadership must manage the change holistically to address organizational challenges and facilitate a smooth transition. Four strategies, if successfully implemented, can help FIs manage complex organizational changes and contribute to a consistent cloud transformation journey.

Strategy #1 – Prep your teams for change

How teams are prepared for change matters because it helps maintain motivation and alignment with an organization’s cloud transformation objectives.

Key to success:

  • Ensure teams fully understand the differences between operating in a cloud environment vs. an on-premises data center.
  • Train and upskill  teams to help transform their skill sets.
  • Foster enthusiasm about the journey ahead and excite teams about the changes.

Suppose you’re moving to a hybrid environment, for example. Understand how your organization runs applications and services in your data centers, how these will be integrated with Software-as-a-Service, and how to operate the pure cloud environment.

Identify the critical work streams that must be developed to comprise the main building blocks of success, such as security. Target the controls that must be established in the cloud and which tools will deliver that enhanced security position. Usually, this requires extensive team training because it’s likely that many of them are unfamiliar with these tools.

It would help if you established robust financial controls to inform, optimize, and operate efficiently, or you risk compromising the value of what you’re trying to gain from the cloud.

Strategic partners are another essential angle here because they can tackle the heavy lifting so you can take full advantage of cloud capabilities. This ensures you can focus on the personal component, like getting your teams on board for this new endeavor, educating your people about how new tools will make their jobs more efficient, explaining how they can contribute to the modernization program’s success, and providing them with opportunities to expand their skill set.

Strategy #2 – Determine what to delegate to partners

Determining and depending on partners for tech ownership is a weighty decision paramount to your overall cloud transformation strategy and business case.

Key to success:

  • Ensure technology or cloud partners brings specialized expertise, including experience in various deployment models, industry-specific requirements, and risk management.
  • Consider a potential partner’s capabilities to augment internal resources and core competencies.
  • Evaluate if it’s a genuinely balanced partnership.

There are numerous considerations in determining what you should control internally and what can be delegated to partners. First, pay attention to the power of a collaborative partnership that fosters a balanced, win-win relationship and shares a cultural alignment. Work together to define what success looks like so that you can win together.

Next, mutually establish mechanisms and accountability to measure and monitor controls to ensure the effectiveness and ongoing compliance of internal and partner-managed controls and maintain a resilient cloud environment.

Also, the complexity of cloud transformation programs may require several partners that provide various skills and capabilities that can fill in corresponding gaps in your internal resources. For example, one of our clients collaborated with one partner for security controls, another for service integration, and another for niche services and ad-hoc requests.

Remember that all of these partners form the system with employees, so partners should be willing to assist employees in learning and growing. Ultimately, it’s a collective environment that you will be running in, and a workforce needs to be comfortable with it and enjoy learning from partners.

Strategy #3 – Engage leadership at every level

Leadership engagement is a make-or-break factor in the success of any change management approach and plays a vital role in driving a new strategy while centralizing teams around a common goal.

Key to success:

  • Business, technology, and functional leaders must all embrace the cloud transformation journey.
  • Commit to an attainable cloud transformation vision and intentional execution.
  • Be proactive in recognizing and communicating challenges and successes along the journey.

Many organizations have shared with us that it’s an ongoing challenge to strike a balance between accelerating a modernization initiative and not overwhelming their teams. On the one hand, you want to fuel the fires of enthusiasm for the change, but you also want to manage expectations.

It’s essential that executive leadership, including business leaders, functional leaders, and technology leaders, become advocates for the journey. Cloud transformation will only be as effective if everyone understands why the changes are necessary and what they will do for the company.

Be open about the benefits of cloud, including agility, developing new services and products, and innovating faster. This openness should extend to the new skills that everyone must learn to succeed. It’s a mentality of being on a collective journey, learning and adjusting together.

Build your initiative around communication and transparency, including where your organization has triumphed and where you’re struggling. This can help maintain positive relationships, promote continuous improvement, and establish accountability for outcomes and results during the transition.

Strategy #4 Don’t Underestimate the Effort and Time to Gain Buy-In

Large-scale changes from cloud transformations can induce fear and blocking behaviors, and business leaders sometimes underestimate the time and effort demanded to gain buy-in.

Key to success:

  • Be clear with teams about what’s needed from them and what’s coming.
  • Help employees control their destiny and adapt to the velocity of change.
  • Demonstrate the organization’s commitment by modeling the desired behaviors and attitude to reduce fear and set a powerful example for the teams.

Any change that threatens the comfort of how we perform our jobs can generate anxiety. But change can also create remarkable opportunities, and business leaders must ensure they’re being vocal about the positive aspects while simultaneously acknowledging the common thread of change resistance.

Embrace a philosophy of explicitness regarding strategy, including which skills and competencies will be needed and which will likely become less necessary or obsolete. One of our FI partners created a successful internal program, enabling employees to invest in learning and development. This allows them to acquire the skills and competencies they need to accelerate their career path, like DevSecOps, and get to that next milestone they want to achieve. Once employees witness a clear commitment to helping them upskill and learn, you can garner a lot of buy-in.

Creating a change-ready culture is no easy feat, especially given the breadth of cloud transformation across the organization at both the broader management and individual levels. However, with an intentional approach to fostering change management and the support of an experienced technology partner, FIs can successfully reshape working behaviors and environments.

Global Banking & Finance Review


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