If IT leaders empower their users to select cloud applications, they will experience fewer tickets and change management challenges, and cultivate more champions while reducing complaints within their user base. The now well-known advantages to the cloud come to play through this process by enabling instant acquisition and company-wide access.
Many cloud applications also offer free trial periods or monthly contracts rather than a large upfront investment, further easing the process. While this may result in more upfront work and interaction with the end users in the short term, the long term benefits of happier workers and a more productive and efficient company will quickly outweigh the initial investment.
Rather than forcing change, empowering users will position IT as a helpful guide. Here are some tips that will help the transition:
* Survey your users on their thoughts. SurveyMonkey and other free applications are great ways to anonymously gauge the applications people are already using and those they're interested in trying out. If possible, determine what Shadow IT is already connected to business processes. Common tools like API Access Auditing, your Firewalls and 3rd party tools can let you approximate what's in use and where and is often very telling.
* Run internal betas of the most popular products within departments. Whether it be for mail, chat, storage, collaboration or other functions, there's a good chance some user populations have already found a great tool for improving existing company processes. This step is the time to drive the tests, make sure the products work as intended, can scale, and has the level of security and management your organization requires.
* Develop software champions. The internal test groups will be your champions; incorporate them in the roll out to improve your likelihood of buy-in across departments, as a bubble-up approach will be much more effective than a trickle-down one. Often the best rollouts involve non-IT software champions with some sort of experience related to the domain of the new app.
* Merchandise success. Build internal case studies and document the metrics of success (time saved, email exchanges avoided, price reductions, user satisfaction improvements). Watch every new app closely. Use uptime or performance tracking tools so you can deliver metrics against the old system. Check your SLAs. For example, Forrester reports that users save an average of 12 minutes per day simply by using Google Apps as their communications suite, totaling approximately 52 hours a year per employee.
* Roll out. With buy-in from your key users and support from your team, it's time to implement the new cloud software in a deliberate and controlled fashion across the organization. For more complex cloud apps your training needs to be highly tailored to specific use cases. Encourage good habits and reward power users with tips and advanced training.
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