In recent posts, I have written about how the cloud benefitted my former organizations (in general and financially). The most important asset I had as an IT leader, though, was our people. Keeping them happy was paramount, and especially so in today’s technology job market. Here, I’d like to share some advice on how I have seen cloud technology impact employee retention both in the technology group and in general.
Let’s start with the technology team. My experience with my teams is that IT folks like to learn, embrace change, and are enthusiastic about keeping their skills up to date. They also have a greater appreciation for what is possible with technology, even if the organization that employs them does not. They will consider other options if their current role doesn’t keep their career moving forward and their workload reasonable.
A few characteristics I noted about my teams, and how the cloud helped them:
- They like working on modern platforms and developing skills on those platforms so they can keep their skills (and, let’s be honest, their resume) relevant.
- They will be better at and enjoy their jobs if they have modern tools that are now affordable through a cloud subscription. Modern systems are far easier to support, standardize, and maintain. More time on progress and projects, less time on tickets and turmoil.
- Technology staff constantly have the threat of outages and security incidents hanging over their heads. (Even on vacation.) Modern cloud platforms like Azure, Office 365, and Microsoft Defender make it far easier to engineer reliability and security so the threats of disruption are more limited. Capabilities like SSO, MFA, fault tolerance, backups, and telephony are built right into the platform.
- Cloud systems are designed to work as one and complement each other. Your team will not have to juggle 40 unrelated and disconnected tools and integrations. (And react to the disruption when the homegrown system duct tape comes loose.)
- Automation tools are easily available. Workflows, scripting, and ML/AI are already there with only some simple configuration. Power Platform tools are there for more complex needs.
- Community and vendor support is broader and deeper, so help is more easily available.
- Maybe most importantly - IT can say yes! The technology group is often viewed and the Grinch because they have to say no to “everything”. If the background noise of on-premises and disconnected systems is gone, they can focus on moving the organization forward. I can’t emphasize this one enough. Everyone wins!
As for our business stakeholders - They also benefit from the advantages above. Put simply, the effort and complexity to get stuff done is reduced and makes their jobs easier and they can focus on their core duties.
(There is one caveat to that statement: Organizational change management, communication, and training are critically important to the successful implementation of new systems and processes. It should accompany any change that impacts how and what people do every day at work.)
- IT can say yes (again)! The number one benefit that I have seen is that those smart IT people (who often also really know the business) can start focusing more of their time on project execution and user-facing requests, which makes life better for everyone. They can be the business accelerators you need.
- Leveraging the cloud gives you an easy and secure way to provide remote work options to employees. Traditional VPNs can be eliminated, and tools like Intune and Defender make it far easier to deal with all manner of remote (and on-premises) endpoints.
- People spend less time fighting for a place in line at the PMO. Either the tools they now have are improved or delivery of new capabilities is easier.
- Information and reporting are far easier to access and automate to enable decision-making.
- Modern tools enable efficiencies in processes and can give everyone time back. (Ask the person who spends three hours a day moving data between spreadsheets and emails how efficient they are.)
- Automation is much easier, and you can even empower employees to do some citizen development themselves. Manual tools and processes like manual spreadsheet data manipulation, disparate versions, and “workflows” via email replies can be a thing of the past.
- The technology staff aren’t the only ones who want to keep skills up to date so they remain marketable.
- Since cloud platforms often re-use system design philosophies and similar tools for varying functions (see Teams/SharePoint/OneDrive), there is less to learn to and can get up to speed quickly on new capabilities.
- SSO and MFA are consistent, simplify account management, and lessen the chance that an employee will inadvertently cause a security risk.
- Tools are always up to date. No waiting for features or budget cycles for new versions.
It’s common wisdom that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. While that is true in some cases, I have also seen people leave because they weren’t able to grow their skills and were tasked with using dated, manual, or unreliable tools to do things that there was an easy technology solution for. Investing in your people also means investing in the methods and means to do their jobs.
This is the third segment of an ongoing series about my time leading organizations to the cloud as a technology executive and sharing what I have learned. The first and second installments are here and here.