Moving part or all of your business to the cloud is a challenge (to put it mildly). But there are some steps you can take to ease this transition.

It’s easy to get stuck running a business using the best practices of ten years ago. Once, managing projects on spreadsheets was the best thing going.

But when your business is in the cloud, you can say good-bye to that fractured world where every ten-person team is managing their project with a separate spreadsheet. With the cloud, teams work with real-time updates, collaboration and transparency.

So if you’re business who wants to move to the cloud, where do you even begin?

What to Expect

It’s an emotional transition

As much as you prepare your business financially, technically and strategically for your cloud adoption, make sure your employees are being trained, supported, led and managed effectively so that the transition happens as smoothly as possible.

Best results come from upfront investments

While cloud service providers work hard to make the on-ramp easy to navigate, some of your old processes won’t translate over. Plan to invest in process design and staff training.

In the long run, the upfront investment will win back many future overhead hours. You’ll have fewer meetings, better communication and more efficient coordination.

How to Start

1. Analyze your current model

Look behind your firewall and inspect your current security configurations. Engage your IT team to find out what’s working well and what isn't. Ask your employees what data and processes could help them be more efficient in their jobs. You could approach a couple people from each team, send out a company-wide email survey or target some early adopters.

A key opportunity with cloud systems is that you can vastly expand your organization’s transparency and scope of information sharing, and this in turn can boost productivity.

2. Migrate in small steps

Let’s say you’re moving all accounting software. There are ongoing acts, projects in process, collections -- all this makes the move more difficult. But if you’re moving something that’s project-based and can straddle multiple systems at a time, consider running a pilot. Moving small sets of projects to the cloud helps shake out the kinks, lets teams acclimate and eliminates the shock factor. 

If you have a new project, you can run that one out of the cloud as a pilot project. It’s easier to move new content over. Many companies pave the way with email, which is simple because the interface stays pretty much the same. If your move is more complex, like moving a CRM system or a support ticking system, bring in an experienced support agent to review the plan.

3. Start a trial team

Or in Star Trek terms: Who’s on your away team?

Identify your early adopters and get them onto pilot teams, like your subject matter expects. Include people who routinely collaborate offline. They’ll be in the best position to identify which processes provide the best opportunities for the cloud. Plan a presentation on the findings, so the team is motivated to take notes along the way.

After the pilot, have the team share their experience with their team lead and key stakeholders. And make sure you have at least one natural evangelist in the mix.

4. Communicate

Sometimes management researches all the benefits before adopting the cloud, but then forgets to rally the troops. Build a communication strategy into your initial plan, and create a presentation that clearly outlines how things will be changing and why.

Let them know how they will be trained and supported, and illustrate the benefits of working in the cloud: a more organized team, better collaboration between employees and more access to improved data.

By providing a road map of the entire process, your company is more prepared for the upcoming paradigm shift.

5. Look for the natural teachers

As with any change, there will be some fear and confusion among your teams. Find team members who understand the cloud, are good mentors and teachers, and get them to help individuals learn and adjust. Look for teachers in the early adopter or pilot teams.

6. Make sure your cloud provider offers the right kind of training and support

Before you choose a cloud provider, know what kind of technical support they provide, how people will be trained, and what kind of ongoing online support is available. Ask about online training, tutorials and how well they can help you troubleshoot problems when there’s confusion or something goes wrong.

7. Have a moving plan

Set up a clear moving plan for migration Let people know ahead of time when it’s their turn to move. Move your grumpiest teams last.

When your company works in the environment of the cloud, you’re gardening together. Now everyone has consensus on what’s growing in your garden, where it's being planted and how our garden blooms.

Image courtesy of Oleksiy Mark (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Want more insights into a migration to the cloud? Read Kevin Conroy's Head in the Cloud - Is Your Company Ready to Make the Move?