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By: Carla Granger
Organizational change of any size is rarely easy.
Now, imagine having to transform the way a highly distributed workforce communicates, collaborates, and ideates.
For good measure, factor in the challenge of serving current and prospective customers while establishing your company as an independent enterprise.
This was the position we at Kyndryl found ourselves in late 2021.
A business imperative for change
When Kyndryl launched as an independent company after separating from IBM in 2021, it created the world’s largest IT infrastructure services provider. We emerged with a fresh approach to doing business, so we needed to transition off existing technology platforms and exit temporary licensing agreements we had negotiated. And we gave ourselves nine months or less to do it.
Ultimately, we partnered with Microsoft, whose technologies could power our digital-first vision and sustain our hybrid workplace model. All Kyndryl employees are now equipped to use the Microsoft 365 platform and its suite of fully integrated applications to be productive and collaborative anywhere their work takes them.
Our success hinges on enabling each Kyndryl employee with capabilities and toolsets that foster communication, collaboration, knowledge sharing, and seamless front-through-back-office operations.”
Perhaps as importantly, we’ve garnered valuable lessons that others can use when plotting their course for transformation.
So, if your company is thinking about moving to Microsoft 365 or embarking on another campaign of comparable size and scope, Kyndryl’s Digital Workplace Services practice has the experience and expertise to support your transition. Meanwhile, here are nine tips we believe are crucial to success:
1. Focus on your employees
If you subscribe to the idea that the employee experience is inextricably linked to the customer experience, you must keep the overall well-being of your team at the core of all you do. This was key to our Microsoft 365 strategy.
For example, as we began our journey as an independent company, we retained our existing technology stack in the near term. This decision, among others, showed employees that we empathize with the challenges they might encounter during our transformation.
2. Involve multiple departments
It was a given that the CIO office would drive Kyndryl’s migration to Microsoft 365. However, the ride would have been much less smooth without input, support and guidance from colleagues across the organization.
The truth is that every department has played a vital role in our Microsoft 365 migration. From New York to Bangalore—and at every Kyndryl office and remote workstation in between—we’ve found that it truly takes a village to effect change at scale.
3. Create a change management strategy
Long before initiating any sizeable transformation, you must plot a detailed course for your journey. Our CIO office spent the latter half of 2021 and the early part of 2022 mapping and refining a three-phase strategy to steer our platform migration.
- Phase 1: Following several months of behind-the-scenes work, we began activating tools in the Microsoft 365 tech stack. The first apps we brought online were SharePoint, Teams, and OneDrive, with a soft launch in early April, followed by staggered activations of Whiteboard, Yammer and other 365 tools. In June, we also started sunsetting the tools in our previous tech stack based on the expiration dates of their respective licensing agreements.
- Phase 2: Initially, Phase 2 will focus on finishing the migration of all Kyndryl data on our existing storage platform to OneDrive and launching Microsoft Power Platform. This collection of business apps aggregates data across the organization and will allow us to create local workflows using low-code and no-code programming. Efforts will then shift to implementing Multi-Geo, enabling us to provision and store data in geolocations outside the United States.
- Phase 3: Once the foundational phases of our migration are complete, we’ll begin the gradual implementation of Microsoft Viva. This employee experience platform will unify critical components of Microsoft 365 into a single platform to further enhance communications, knowledge sharing, learning, and distribution of resources and insights across our organization.
4. Appoint champions of change from within
Rather than trying to mandate acceptance from the top down, enlist colleagues to be your advocates for change. At Kyndryl, we recruited employees throughout the organization to generate excitement around the launch of our Microsoft applications.
Today, our Microsoft Champions group includes roughly 2,300 Champions in more than 56 countries. They invest countless hours promoting adoption and use of the applications, encouraging peers to become fluent with the tools, and sharing their knowledge with others.
5. Develop a robust training program
Education is key for enablement, so we turned to Microsoft and other trusted partners to help us create a comprehensive instructional strategy. Together, we developed a library of live events, practice exercises and interactive tools to enable employees to learn in a way that fits their style and schedule.
Our current offerings include Microsoft-hosted training sessions in multiple languages and time zones, on-demand learning based on each employee’s job and skill set, and instructional modules for specific products and services.
6. Communicate early and often
We kicked off communications for our transition to Microsoft 365 with an Open Mic livestream hosted by our CEO. He shared news about our new Microsoft partnership and announced that the entire company would be moving to the 365 platform.
Soon after, we began working with our corporate communications team to develop additional videos, blogs, newsletter articles and weekly posts to chronicle Kyndryl’s transition to Microsoft tools. Today, we have three collaboration hubs that form the cornerstone of our ongoing communications.
7. Remain transparent
If you don’t have answers to everything—and you won’t—admit it. Be honest and tell people that you appreciate their feedback and will figure out a solution together to get them where they need to be.
By remaining transparent, we’ve strengthened relationships and built trust with employees that will serve us well as we continue our workplace transformation. It also promises to pay even larger dividends within our organization and beyond as our company strengthens its position in the market and grows.
8. Anticipate bumps in the road
Not surprisingly, there were missteps on our journey to Microsoft 365. Rather than fixate on what went wrong or who was to blame, we promptly addressed issues and used the experience to guide our way forward.
Bottom line: You’ll make certain decisions along the way that, in hindsight, may not be the best. The key is to help everyone adjust, work toward a better outcome, and learn from the experience.
9. Reimagine your measures of success
At some point, you’ll have to measure the performance of any large-scale initiative you undertake. However, our Microsoft 365 transition focuses on qualitative assessments rather than traditional metrics like ROI and cost savings.
In the short term, we’re using the ramp-down of existing applications and the adoption and usage of our new applications as key performance indicators. We’ll eventually use new tooling methods to fully track user sentiment, engagement and productivity, which are critical to enhancing business outcomes.
Change in Context
History is riddled with companies that failed at change—or, at a minimum, failed to do it well.
By embracing your organization’s current challenges and anticipating those that have yet to come, you can recast perceived disruptions as catalysts for progress.
Then, your entire organization will be well-positioned for genuinely transformative change.
Carla Granger is the Global Leader of Experience, Design, and Practice Partnerships for CIO Workplace Experiences at Kyndryl.