How to prepare your association for a move to the cloud – the not-so-technical edition

Bill Rowan | 03.28.15
Topics: Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, Outsourced IT - Technical Questions


Moving your network and data to the cloud is more than an IT project. Like any technology system implementation that affects other departments, a transition to cloud hosting – whether it’s to Amazon Web Services, DelCor Cloud Connection, or moving membership data to a SaaS system – is essentially a change management project.

Before beginning your association’s migration to the cloud, think about the transition from a non-IT staff perspective. Start by recalling their adoption of new systems and business processes in the past. To what degree do they readily accept change or resist change? During these times of change do you hear the buzz of positive anticipation or a chorus of gripes and grumblings?

To successfully implement new technology and manage change, leadership support, empathy, and education are crucial.

Encourage senior staff to be champions of change.

When new work policies and procedures are presented to staff, they’re going to look to senior staff to see if they’re setting the example. They’re not going to start using a new collaboration tool if their department head still does things the old way “just this once.”

Manage change with kindness.

Control is a hot button. People don’t always have a sense of control in their lives at work, even though they strongly desire it. When they’re used to doing things a certain way, that process may be one of the few areas where they do feel like that have some control. And now you’re going to take that away from them – so tread carefully (tread with care).

Losing that control is a legitimate concern – one that has real-life implications. For example, staff may have to adjust to a new user experience when they have to access the AMS using Microsoft RemoteApp. Or, the Exchange admin may no longer be able to view log files because you no longer have a server on site. Is that going to be a problem?

Don’t just pop something new on staff without preparing them for it. You may understand all the reasons why cloud hosting is right for your organization and worth any temporary inconvenience, but they may not.

Explain what’s going on and why.

Prepare and educate staff on any changes in work routines and processes that will affect them. They won’t necessarily notice a difference on their desktop, but they need to be aware of the new work environment and responsibilities that the cloud brings.

Before migrating to the cloud, enlighten staff. The word “enlighten” lends itself to more of a peer-to-peer collaborative mindset than “training,” which has more of a “command-and-control” character, so think of it that way.

Help staff understand what the cloud really is. Don’t assume they know how it works. The word “cloud” is tossed around so much these days, but every organization uses the cloud in a different way. Explain to staff how your cloud will work – what’s being hosted and where.

Make sure your explanations – in staff meetings, individual sessions, and/or FAQs – cover the following:

  • Why the association is moving to the cloud.
  • The value and the potential impact of the cloud environment for the association, staff, and, ultimately, its members.
  • How each person (individuals, job types, and departments) will be impacted by the move to the cloud.

Help staff understand their new responsibilities.

The cloud can unchain staff from their cubicles and offices and give them the freedom to be productive no matter where they’re located – and they know it. However, with great freedom comes great responsibility – and they may not know that.

First and foremost, a move to the cloud requires education about data and network security. Staff must understand:

  • How to protect data and passwords in their care.
  • What can and can’t be shared in the cloud.
  • What to do if data is mistakenly shared.

A transition to cloud hosting is an opportunity to help staff understand the constant vigilance required these days to secure data and networks, and their role in IT security.

Before you “go live,” not after, is the time to discuss:

  • New software, apps, or platforms that staff will now be able to use.
  • Proposed streamlining or standardization of business processes.
  • Changes to IT policies, like mobile device and file-sharing policies.

Make sure staff understands the reasoning behind any changes and the positive, personal impact of those changes.

Consider the implications of freedom and flexibility – good and bad.

The cloud gives employees the tools they need to be productive while also providing IT departments the security and control they require. Staff is most likely ready for this new freedom and flexibility, but is your association? Do your policies align with this new mobile culture? More importantly, is your workplace culture ready? And to what extent do you want staff to work from home?

Be ready to manage expectations about telecommuting. Although telecommuting can enhance productivity for some employees, it will also change the work experience and workplace culture for everyone – those who work at home and those who work in the office. Again, tread with care.

The freedom and flexibility of “life in the cloud” create real opportunities to increase efficiency.

For example, DelCor has 2 clients that, until very recently, would take their AMS database offline, export it onto a laptop or loaner server, drag it to their conventions, process registrations and other conference activities, then come back to HQ and bring the whole thing back online – a painful process any way you look at it.

After moving to DelCor Cloud Connection, these organizations experienced a brand new (and possibly scary, at first) way of doing things. With their AMS in the cloud, there were no databases to “pack” – they simply arrived on location and connected to remote desktop with full access to their production database.

It may be taken for granted – or not – but cloud-enabling their existing AMS, giving staff a familiar user interface, and providing the ability to access it in real time from anywhere in the world is powerful. And it makes for smoother pre-, during, and post-conference computing.

Maintain control by becoming a technology advisor.

Association staff are used to selecting cloud-based apps to use in their personal lives. Many of them may also be using cloud-based apps at work. In the past, the IT department was the only gateway to new technology; now employees are experienced consumers of technology and may (un)intentionally leave IT out of the loop when looking for technology solutions.

This new scenario requires a shift in focus by IT professionals. Because the maintenance and management of association systems and network infrastructure are now outsourced, the IT department must focus on their new, more strategic role. They’re the in-house technology advisors who can help staff find and implement new technology solutions. However, the IT team won’t even be aware of opportunities where they can assist – unless staff knows they’re ready to help, and seeks their help.

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Flickr photo by Marcelo Quinan

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