Collaboration is at the heart of cloud success

The key to successful cloud technology implementation lies in collaboration, argues John Stokoe, head of strategy development EuroNorth at technology company Dassault Systèmes.

Implementing new cloud hosted technology in companies of any size presents challenges and opportunities.

But it also induces uncertainty and anxiety among the workforce, who may see their jobs under threat.

There is no doubt that some companies introduce new technology to reduce headcount. But simply replacing people with technology implies that the human capital of the organisation remains underdeveloped and while short-term savings can be achieved the company may not progress sustainably.

Across the range of companies that we encounter those who consider technology in relation to the workforce are able to innovate more successfully.

This is possible because the workforce is enabled to operate in new ways, form new groups and generate new ideas as a result.

It’s been proven time and time again that the introduction of new technology is most successful when it is aligned strategically with the business model. In other words, it should be an integral part of corporate strategy that is also reflected in staff development.

If these factors are taken into account the company and its employees will be culturally ready to embrace technological advancement and to reap the considerable productivity and innovation rewards that cloud hosted technology adoption offers.

Unlocking potential

One of the main reasons for introducing new technology is to remove waste. In manufacturing and construction, waste is expensive and often highly visible but ultimately totally avoidable. In commerce or services there may be no physical waste but it is equally expensive and harder to detect.

Large amounts of waste in business result from the dispersion of people and information into separate silos, each with their own processes and in many cases own applications and solutions.

Because the data that each department creates is separated from the rest of the business it cannot be turned into useful intelligence in the ideation process. Its potential value is hidden and locked away.

It is common for numerous organisations to use antiquated procedures that have been built up over many years. Any resourceful and innovative thoughts about the company cannot flourish within the existing construct.

By introducing technology that breaks down these silos and where stakeholders can use the same unified and universally accessible system, business transformation can happen.

Deploying new technology brings automation to functions such as design, manufacturing, engineering, finance, commerce and marketing, unifying separate islands of work into one single stream while connecting different departments, their stakeholders and the whole organisation.

Innovation is harder to achieve on an individual basis but in groups it can be accomplished and implemented more effortlessly.

Rather than people, worrying that technology will replace them; they are motivated to utilise it and any synergies to the fullest while developing better and more efficient ways of working that lead to improvements of their own and the company’s prospects.

One of the main benefits that this methodology has already brought to many types of businesses is that the enterprise can expand and take on more people in the knowledge that its human resource will be fully capitalised.

Avoiding gridlock

HR and IT are often gridlocked by unrewarding practices and outmoded technology.

Yet these specialists have a great part to play in introducing and explaining the methods and the adapted strategy that will project the organisation into the future.

New roles can be created at all levels while the organisation is drawn together into a more efficient unit.

Employees will use technology to form new working groups drawn from previously siloed departments. This leads to a mixing of ages, demographics and disciplines from across the entire business.

And because the technology automates many formerly wasteful processes, time becomes available to commercially exploit innovations brought about by the new order.

Involving the interdisciplinary workforce provides feedback for managers and highlights areas for potential improvement and up-skilling, re-skilling or training.

Where this is successful, employees often request that more areas of their work are digitized because they see it as a catalyst for overall improvement.

It makes them more productive and profitable and therefore more valuable to the company. This is especially felt in smaller businesses where they can use technology to innovate through enhanced collaboration and give themselves a winning edge.

Common platform

Technology is constantly evolving so it is crucial to ensure that the IT framework is future proofed with the ability to incorporate any new applications that could be useful to the business as it develops organically.

It’s essential to create trusting partnerships between technology providers and users where they understand and mesh with each other, too.

When this is achieved, engagement at all levels within and between the companies delivers the insight and adaptations that lead to improved competitiveness, performance and business strategies.

Implementing technology and processes in a cross-functional way means that emerging innovations in lines and products that could otherwise be lost or hidden can be captured and marshalled for the benefit of the business.

One way to do this is to provide a common working platform that makes information and process details available for all employees. This way, ideas and innovation are nurtured and at the same time easier to detect and capitalise.

This flexibility lets the company work together leveraging the enthusiasm and new thinking of the young with more experienced minds, nurturing transformation and improvement. People begin to think and perceive the organisation differently.

The company can also benchmark itself and its reputation in relation to customers, competitors and suppliers.

Businesses can also use the data generated through these collaborations to enhance future capability.

This could be on a single work cell level or for the whole enterprise. This level of foresight and the opportunity to run digital ´what-if´ scenarios is a powerful lens through which to view the business.

Asia is far ahead of Europe in the deployment of unified platforms with India making very fast headway to cementing its position as an innovation centre. There, university students use the same cloud-hosted technology as their eventual employers to ensure that they hit the ground running in the world of work.

A fresh wind of change is blowing the stifling bureaucracy from many companies that want to reap the rewards of working digitally, so how can organisations get the best out of technology deployments?

Here are 10 ways to get started:

  • Start with a clear strategy for being a digital organisation
  • Use technology to empower and manage people as a business asset
  • Get IT departments to understand the big picture and be proactive in the change process
  • Use focus groups to recognise technology evangelists and innovation drivers in your business
  • Challenge your own thinking about the value of technology and educate yourself and your key stakeholder about it
  • Use HR departments to champion the business transformation process and explain the advantages of technological change in your organisation
  • Merge individual silos of information with a unified and universally accessible enterprise platform
  • Think across the business and at all levels to generate new and different ideas
  • Use technology to bring people together into new interest and responsibility groups
  • Think long-term (10 to 30 years) about your business direction

About John Stokoe

John Stokoe CB CBE is head of strategy development EuroNorth at technology company Dassault Systèmes.
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