Leading a horse to water: Driving out uncertainty in IT cloud projects
“What Cloud solution is right for us?”
“What functionality will be available in this solution?”
“When will I get my training?”
Each of these questions reflects a person grappling with uncertainty at different levels of the organization. From the initial consideration of changing IT strategy, through the design, implementation, and go live, the project team is constantly working on uncertainty loops as uncertainty cascades down the organization.
The senior decision maker starts with uncertainty and has zero commitment, until they commit to a strategy, then the IT manager deals with uncertainty of how to implement the strategy. The IT manager instinctively gathers information to fill in the blanks and then sets to work making commitments to specific design components.
As the final design gets closer to testing and rollout, end users have their own set of concerns and questions and eventually will be fully committed to the solution once they’ve had training and cut over to the new solution. In each case, the person is expected to make a commitment but won’t feel comfortable making a choice until much of the uncertainty is driven out, thereby reducing the risk of the decision.
People take action to reduce uncertainty instinctively, and as long as they feel uncertain they won’t be comfortable to make a decision. Understanding this, and helping drive out uncertainty to encourage commitment can make a difference between analysis paralysis and steady progress toward the goal. Providing answers to reduce uncertainty can “lead the horse to water” trying to get them to decide.
At GreenPages, we’ve done numerous assessments to create recommendations for companies on what cloud solutions are good for them. It’s a tough decision for the CIO, and a big leap of faith for the company, especially putting your IT organization’s success in the hands of an external Cloud Provider. We research the providers, check references, compare them to industry benchmarks, but it is still a tough decision.
When we meet with IT Managers in the process of implementing Cloud solutions, they grapple with how to fit the standardized cloud services into their organization. One company had a complex Active Directory environment, and although a particular tool claimed to integrate with AD, it had very limited functionality, only allowing a single OU selection, and this customer is still working through how to get the tool to fit their organization. IT Managers know these things can happen and are skeptical until they see a solution first hand, and experience it for themselves.
When users hear about the changes coming, they have their own questions. This is the time when people wonder if their cheese is about to move. People want to know how their job will change with the new tools or strategy. These concerns can pop up unexpectedly if not addressed.
Knowing that people are extra sensitive to uncertainty, the resourceful IT professional can get out in front of people’s most anxiety producing concerns and help to drive out uncertainty:
- Including people affected downstream is a good way to get their input as well as lay the groundwork for commitment.
- Most people need to have an initial exposure to understand something new, a time to contemplate the impact to them, and some forum to voice their concerns, in order to really feel ownership and buy in (i.e. commitment).
- Any information that can be provided to help people understand as early as possible can defuse possible frustration later.
- It’s important to respond clearly when people express their urgency to resolve uncertainty. They want to be heard, and frustration will continue to grow if not addressed.
- The goal is to help people to be comfortable in the project timeline, understanding the designs early, and seeing the actual output as implementation gets closer.
It’s risky to proceed to the next phase without fully addressing uncertainty. There will always be some uncertainty, but recklessly discounting someone’s concerns or putting off understanding the concerns will increase the risk of having the concern blow up unexpectedly at some point. The blowup will create rework as the foundation is questioned and the design is revisited.
You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. For Cloud projects, helping team members resolve their uncertainty leads them to water and makes them ready and able to take the drink.
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