This CIO had to get one important ally on board before he moved all cloud

Credit: Beau Lark

When Derek Colvin came on board as CIO at Datix in 2009, he was looking to completely change the culture of the company where technology was concerned.

As Colvin pointed out, the 50-person company that makes patient safety event management software, has been around for 25 years and over time, he said it had collected a lot of content buried in different siloes. He said, there was a CRM silo, a support silo, a development silo and so forth --  and there was lot of content that just accumulated in these various repositories over the years.

His challenge was to find ways to break down these siloes, but even at a small company, he found people had grown set in their ways. Emailing an attachment was tough behavior to overcome and he was taking out the old and putting in the new, which caused a lot of anxiety among the user base.

He says he began by analyzing what they were doing, how they were doing it and how they could improve these processes to make it easier for the lines of business to do their jobs. "We had a transformational process where we looked at all line of business apps and what could we do better,"  he said.

In the end the company went with three products: Google Apps for Enterprise, Salesforce.com and Box. In fact Colvin, who is a member of the Box Customer Advisory Board, says making the change was more challenging than he thought it would be. In this case, the move to the cloud wasn't being driven by end user demand. It was Colvin who was pushing the change from the top down, and there was more resistance than he anticipated there would be.

People became defensive when it came to using the new tools and they accused him of moving too quickly and forcing the change on the users. "Although it's the right thing to do, you are going to hit that psychological barrier: 'It has always been this way and why should I change'?"

Once the users saw the ease of use and the accessibility these services afforded, they eventually came around, but it took a period of adjustment. "It's quite easy [now] because you've got all this data and we need to get better view of customer. We need to understand content better." And these tools let his company do that.

He said one of his key allies through this transition was the CFO. Once he got the guy paying the bills behind the idea of moving to the cloud, the rest of the company had little choice but to follow. He said, doing it the traditional way with your own data center is just inherently more complicated.

He explained that with the old approach, you've got a room with the servers and you've got cool it. You've got to hire guys to maintain it. You've got other costs like disaster recovery and so forth. With a company like Box, he says, it's 'here is the bill' and it has a defined cost. There are no soft costs associated with keeping the lights on in the server room.

He said, he did bring it on slowly. Even in a 50 person company, he did it one department at time and then took the lessons learned and rolled it out to the next one and so forth. The mobile staff saw the advantages immediately because they could access their work content on the train and this was a revelation for them, he said.

One other aspect of sharing he hadn't anticipated was sharing content with customers. Instead of an attachment, they would get a Box link and they didn't know what to do with it. He said, it was just a matter of communicating better. It's not that hard to click a link, but you have to explain it because people didn't just get it by osmosis.

While Datix isn't a huge company, what Colvin learned about transitioning a company to the cloud could apply to any company going through a similar experience, regardless of your size. You may get more push-back than you thought, but in the end, people get used to the new ways of working.

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