Top 10 ways to tell if your cloud project has gone wrong

Cloud technology provides organisations with value derived from optimising business processes, generating more profound business innovation and going beyond the boundaries to accelerate business results.

But migrating to the cloud carries a unique set of risks and challenges. Many organisations are unaware of how to tell when things aren’t going to plan or how to prevent disruptions during the project, and many also don’t understand that the dynamics of a cloud project should be different than an on-premises project.

We count down the top ten ways you can tell that your cloud project might have wandered a little bit off track.

10. The contract negotiations are taking longer than the estimated project duration 

Most projects have at least two contracts to manage – the cloud application and the integrator. Ensure your requirements are clear and are communicated in writing to all parties. Educate your procurement team upfront on the differences between buying cloud products and services to avoid legal time on unnecessary clauses.

From a deliverables standpoint, Integrators who have an established process for scoping projects can expose the universe of possibilities so you can match your needs to what’s possible.

Assign review of scoping documents to key business employees who have a thorough understanding of the project requirements for both the application and provider to ensure needs are scoped and accounted for.

9. Your services partner hands you a binder with your strategy and approach

Having a prepared strategy and approach is not a bad thing in and of itself. It’s how it meshes with your organisation and culture that matters! Partners should spend time with you very early in the project to review the methodology and key practices that they say deliver successful outcomes.

Discussing these should lead to specific agreements about how you and the partner will work together and allows both parties to understand each other’s measures for success. You should also recognise that three year fixed strategies are often useless six months down the road.

A strategy and roadmap should provide a deliverable that shows real business benefits within the first 3-4 months and also be flexible enough to encourage iterative review and re-prioritisation as your business changes.

8. Your users have no clue why you are doing the project

Be clear on how the cloud is going to benefit users: give examples of previous success stories of similar projects, and make sure everyone is onboard before embarking on the project.

Remember, it may be infinitely clear to you why using cloud will improve parts of the business, but unless this is correctly communicated to all parties involved at the offset, you’ll waste time and energy trying to explain and convince later down the line when the installation is in its complex stages. Communicate early and keep in mind that what users want to hear about most is WIIFM - “What’s In It For Me?”

7. There‘s no business stakeholder engaged in the planning or implementation

Implementations without business stakeholders who own decisions have a high predictability of failing. Why? Because the needs of the business are not adequately represented, the user experience is lop-sided and absolutely no one will understand what the benefits of the implementation are intended to be! The business stakeholders are actively involved in the project, driving toward specified objectives and influencing the solution.

Business stakeholders understand the pain, the current state and have a vision for the future. And as champions for change, they are typically the folks who are making sure everyone knows why, what, how and when.

6. You’re spending more energy planning than executing

We must assume here that you’ve identified your deliverables, milestones and key activities for the implementation. With this information, you then create your project plan – a specific list of things that must happen in order for the goals to be met. Now, move on! Manage to the timetable with the team’s focus on the activities, not the deadlines.

Ensure you have adequate ways to manage your progress and can catch issues early so you can react quickly. Use the configuration readiness of cloud platforms to show iterative progress within the tool and get real time feedback.

Many organisations react too late to problems and then spend too much time on revising the project plan. Get in front of it with governance and early warning systems.

5. You’re half way through the project and your user adoption strategy is still undefined

User adoption is often overlooked, misunderstood and carries a tremendous amount of risk to the success of your implementation.

Organisations that understand that the introduction of any new process or tool transforms its culture will have a huge advantage in maximising its investment.

Those that recognise the need to plan for and actively engage users in the transformation will elevate performance and productivity across the organisation. From a practical perspective, communication, training and support are key tools used to drive success and each of these activities should be tailored to meet the need of each stakeholder group.

Start defining your adoption strategy the day you start the project (if not sooner) to ensure you have adequate time to prepare your users for this “culture shock”.

4. You have no mobile component to the project

Mobile has fundamentally changed the ways in which organisations operate and the way employees interact. Accessing business applications and portals from mobile devices is a must have particularly for users who are in the field and management expects “real time” information in their cloud application.

Mobile applications and the ability to customise these have improved dramatically over the last few years. Ensure the partner you work with offers a consumer-designed approach, has a user centric design, and utilises the latest mobile/web native technology powered by cloud platforms.

3. Project timeline and budget metrics are tracking out of sync

Effective project governance ensures you always know where you are with spend and time remaining. Your integrator should provide reports at least weekly on these critical metrics and how they’re tracking against budget and timeline.

One of the key agreements made with the integrator at the beginning of the project should include early warnings on these key metrics and are available to you at all times. Additionally, you should be prepared to be iterative in your prioritisation of requirements and always consider how they impact your budget.

2. The primary root cause of UAT issues is “system working as designed”

UAT – User Acceptance Testing – is the final step in the implementation before it’s released to users. The organisation is charged with this testing using test scripts developed to ensure the product meets the requirements using acceptance criteria.

Iterative reviews are critical to guiding results and clear acceptance criteria is meant to define the user experience and functionality required to pass all testing scenarios. However, UAT is often conducted without this criteria resulting in the integrator’s and business representatives’ best guess at what done looks like.

Therefore, it’s possible that the business had not communicated its requirements correctly, or lacked sufficient details, which could result in the system working as designed, but not as expected.

1. You realise that you’ve just re-created your on-premises system on new technology

Many organisations choose integrators who accept their requirements at face value, simply refresh the current process and/or fail to understand users’ pain. A “lift and shift” approach will result in bringing over old baggage into the new system.

If you’ve acquired a cloud application that allows you to stretch, transform and grow your organisation, make sure the integrator you choose leverages these advantages. Choose an integrator who will challenge your current business practices, peel back the layers of the process, expose users’ pain and offer unique but practical cloud based solutions.

Lori Williams is general manager, EMEA, at Appirio.