As cloud mastery becomes a necessity to compete in today’s financial services industry, organizations are looking to accelerate their cloud transformation journeys. We’ve found that focusing on “the Three As”—alignment, ability, and adoption—will accelerate an organization’s realization of the benefits of migrating to the cloud.

Today we’re going to look at alignment, which is the level of agreement within an organization about a proposed change, and how well people in different parts of the organization collaborate on the cloud migration journey. It’s a simple concept, but Accenture research has found that alignment has four times the impact of the next most influential factor on the benefits realization of a transformation.

Achieving alignment between IT and the business is key in getting the most out of the cloud. Misalignment between the two groups was cited by 45% of leaders in recent Accenture research as a top barrier to achieving the full value expected from cloud. Alignment also closely tracks with digital fluency and organizational “technology quotient” (TQ).

But alignment is quite rare in the industry. Accenture research has found that less than half of all financial institutions have aligned their enterprise cloud strategies to their long-term business strategies.

Achieving perfect alignment, as anyone who has attended a C-suite meeting knows, is very difficult. But our research has found that fostering alignment between key players can still unlock new levels of change fluency for an organization. Finding alignment between cloud champions in IT, in product development, and the C-suite is both achievable and powerful.

So how can you foster alignment at your bank?

One way is to look at what today’s cloud leaders are doing differently from the competition. Some new Accenture research on “modern cloud champions” compares the practices of cloud leaders with the competitors. Several striking insights about fostering alignment jump out.

Compared with their competitors, today’s cloud leaders are:

  • More than twice as likely to report improved cross-functional communication and strong collaboration between IT and the rest of the business.
  • Strong advocates of departing from silos and democratizing access to data, tools and technologies within an organization.
  • More likely to encourage interaction and knowledge-sharing between team members.
  • More transparent around business strategy with employees.
  • More likely to use operating models that drive collaboration and agility, both across their company and their ecosystem.

Leaders can also find some very strong levers to pull by looking at the field of modern neuroscience.

Neuroscience insights on finding alignment

Neuroscience is a dynamic and exciting multidisciplinary field of study that examines the fundamental properties of our nervous systems. It has uncovered all sorts of powerful insights about how we think, many of which are useful for bringing teams together around a single vision for change and moving together towards that vision—in other words, for fostering alignment.

Here, drawn from the work of Hilary Scarlett, are eight steps financial services leaders can take to help the workforce not just tolerate but embrace major changes like a cloud transformation.

Provide certainty around communication. 

When communication is scarce during change, neuroscience tells us that people are more likely to freeze or become distracted. Lower this risk by providing ample and accurate information. At a bare minimum, develop, distribute and abide by communication principles so that no one in the organization needs to wonder how or when important information will be distributed.

Belong to teams and encourage teamwork.

Teams are more than working groups—they’re fundamental parts of the human experience and major factors in our psychological wellbeing. Encourage teamwork to give everyone at your institution a sense of identity built around shared goals and regular feedback.

Help your teams let go.

We all have an urge to dwell on the past. Retrospective analysis can be helpful, but taken too far, it becomes unhealthy. Achieving alignment means moving on from the past and focusing on the future. This can make a financial services organization confident in tackling new challenges.

Activate the reward network.

Simply put: it feels good to get good stuff. Neuroscience shows that even small rewards can trigger the release of dopamine, the “feel good hormone,” and that this can help everyone perform better. Frequent, public rewards should be part of your change management strategy.

Be visible and make time for people.

The simple act of being seen—whether face-to-face or virtually—can be powerful. Neuroscience reveals that humans trust familiar faces. If they want to be trusted, leaders need to take action to make their faces familiar. Reaching out to team members individually and setting up open office hours and group social hours are all good steps. Leaders should also be mindful of their body language. A worried face sends a message that anyone who sees it will receive.

Share knowledge with storytelling and transparency.

Sharing important information in timely updates using storytelling techniques helps people connect the content of the message to their own experience. Not only does this grow a group’s feeling of camaraderie, it can also help others develop their own insights.

Involve people in the change and listen to what they have to say.

There are three benefits to paying attention to what those affected by the change have to say about it. First, it helps to build commitment to the organization and to the change. Second, it can increase the quality of decision-making around the change. Finally, if people have a say in change, they are much more likely to support the change.

Enable insight.

There is a much greater probability that people across an organization will feel positive about change when they understand why it’s happening and what the outcome is likely to be. Creating a safe environment for them to ask and answer questions—and for leaders to feel comfortable when they don’t have all the answers—can make change management much more effective.

Some of these insights are easier to put into action than others. All of them can require major strategic change programs to fully realize.

But they are also all agile, in the sense that you can start building toward them right away. Here are some quick alignment wins you can implement today:

  1. Set short-term, achievable goals. This helps people feel accomplished and sharpens focus.
  2. Remind people of past achievements. This also reminds them that they are capable of tackling difficulties.
  3. Give praise and recognition. These help teams perform by putting them in a positive “toward” state. Praise also lets people know what they have done well and what behaviors to repeat.
  4. Provide accurate information. This improves certainty. If communicating timely information is difficult, be transparent about the communication process.
  5. Allow people to reach their own insights. People will be much more supportive of change if they can take an active role in shaping the change.
  6. Conduct alignment workshops. This can strengthen the shared vision of business and IT while building confidence that the organization wants to invest in its people.

In my next post, we’ll look at another “A” in “the Three As”—ability.

In the meantime, read more about Accenture’s research on the cloud in financial services 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 financial services, 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 financial services, follow me on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors.