Banks around the world right now are racing to the cloud. Are the winners of the race already too far ahead to catch?

In my previous posts in this series, we’ve looked at the forces driving most banks to kick their cloud transformation journeys into high gear. We’ve also looked at the talent and people practices which banks will need to master if they are to maximize the value of their cloud investments—things like fostering lifelong learning in the workforce and creating a culture that breaks down silos and embraces new ways of working.

This suggests a success-breeds-success dynamic to the industry’s journey to the cloud, where the banks that are already the most innovative, digitally fluent, and change-ready race ahead of the competition.

Today we’re going to untangle this knot and lay out a path forward for banks looking to move up the pack in the race to the cloud.

A catalyst and a continuum

The good news is that a successful cloud journey is still within reach of every bank. In fact, moving to the cloud can serve as a catalyst for the modernization of talent practices and culture that many banks have been pursuing for years. Embracing the cloud demands that organizations be more agile and less hierarchical. It requires making learning part of the flow of work for the entire workforce, continuously.

This means a successful cloud transformation journey will also transform a bank’s talent practices and culture for the New Digital Age.

One final note before we jump in: though I use the word “journey” to describe a bank integrating cloud technologies into its business, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no final destination. The cloud’s capabilities will continue to evolve and change, so banks will need to evolve and change to make use of them. A bank will need not just continuous learning in its workforce, but also a continuous change capability so that the organization can continue to flex and change as the environment changes.

The cloud is not a project. It is a way of being.

The power of the Three As

One powerful differentiating factor among cloud leaders is their emphasis on the “Three As” when it comes to people—alignment, ability, and adoption.

Alignment refers to agreement on the vision of an organization’s cloud transformation journey. Accenture research has found that a clear vision and direction has a four times greater impact on the benefits realization of a transformation than any other factor. Alignment starts in the C-suite and includes every part of an organization—both within and between departments. Strong alignment boosts an organization’s “technology quotient” (TQ) and digital fluency, as well as helping with change management of all kinds. Applying insights from neuroscience is a great way to build alignment across the organization. Another cloud-specific way to boost alignment is for all key stakeholders—not just leaders—to co-create the change vision.

Ability is the combination of cloud transformation skills present across the organization—not just in IT. This includes not only technical skills but also “soft” ones like a growth mindset, customer-centricity, and change agility. On an organizational level, these skills contribute to a culture of continuous learning, experimentation and innovation. They can lead to an environment that encourages risk taking and learning from mistakes. Improving organizational ability also helps a bank make better use of data by building data fluency across the workforce. Building these skills in complex organizations is part art and part science. Maximizing them also frequently requires changes to operating models and organizational design.

Adoption refers to embracing new mindsets, behaviors, and ways of working to capitalize on new technology. This includes:

  • Flexibility—empowering staff with the right tech and policies to allow them to work in the locations best suited to their particular work, and democratizing access to the data, tools and technologies within the organization.
  • Collaboration—encouraging sharing, cross-business teamwork, and the development of communities of practice.
  • Growth mindset—building the willingness of leaders and employees to try new things, learn from experience, and pursue improvement.
  • Leadership—inspiring leaders to model future desired behaviors, champion new skills, and create the right culture.

We’ve found that a focus on the Three As can deliver improved business transformation outcomes like:

  • 30% – 50% better employee experience
  • 5% – 7% improved talent retention
  • 10% – 20% lower cost of training and development
  • 20% – 30% increased speed to competency
  • 30% – 45% increased productivity

These kinds of changes can hugely accelerate a bank’s cloud transformation journey.

Building momentum with quick wins

The Three As are all strategic considerations. Moving the needle on them takes time and investment. But building momentum behind your cloud transformation should not wait on strategic transformation. The race is on right now.

So to wrap up this post let’s look at two quick wins, supported by Accenture research on cloud transformation, that any leader can start on today.

The first is, wherever possible, to offer continuous learning and allow employees to choose the learning mode that works for them. We’ve found that cloud leaders place more emphasis on learning new skills than the competition, and that no two people have the same skill level at the same time and learn in exactly the same way. Offering continuous learning is a large strategic transformation project on its own, but it starts with the simple decision to create a self-directed continuous learning culture.

The second quick win is to remove barriers to data, tools, and technologies across the organization. Cloud leaders embrace the departure from traditional hierarchy and organizational silos. As with training, this can (and should) roll up into a large transformation project that empowers frontline employees with real-time data, integrates digital tech into daily operations to boost productivity, and provides everyone in the organization with cutting edge tech to do their jobs effectively. But it can also be started with a simple decision to grant more people in your organization access to more tools and more resources to use them.

In my next post, I’ll take a closer look at strengthening alignment—particularly by drawing on recent insights from the field of neuroscience.

In the meantime, read more about Accenture’s research on banking in the cloud in our new digital publication, Banking Cloud Altimeter.

If you have any questions about this post or you’d like to continue the conversation about the cloud in banking, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached here.

To keep up with my writing on the intersection of the cloud and people in banking, follow me on LinkedIn.