Mid-life crisis? No, this is the cloud-inspired mid-sized crisis


As I write this, my team is in Madrid helping a mid-size, international organisation implement a complete IT change. The company is moving to the cloud using Microsoft Office 365 as its backbone.

Reflecting on the process, aspects of it appear to be the IT equivalent of a mid-life crisis. It can be uncomfortable, possibly even painful; some companies and people cope with it better than others; it’s an inevitable outcome of technological evolution and it can lead to the odd irrational decision, or a desire for something a bit racy or out of character.

IT change, particularly to cloud-based systems and services which are conceptually different, is often hardest for mid-sized companies.

Generally, although I could name a few exceptions particularly in developing markets, large organisations have long-term IT strategies based on clearly developed life-cycles. Large-scale change is likely to be significant in terms of infrastructure and require major amounts of training and skills development. New software or systems tend to be introduced and rolled-out through organisation-wide structured programmes.

For small companies, the opposite is true. IT change and implementation can be quick, agile and straightforward. Moving to the cloud can happen within hours and, with limited amounts of training and communication, the change is painless.

Mid-sized crisis

When it comes to a mid-size business, going through the change can be much harder. There will be a degree of IT scale – possibly international – and some element of legacy systems. However, this may not be big enough to make wholesale change a straightforward business decision. Equally, it is not small enough to happen quickly or easily.

Often software versions or licences are out of date, or upgrades have been ‘lumpy’ because they have not been rolled-out across the entire organisation. There may be a great deal of inertia and desire, but limited financial and human resources – including internal champions – to actually implement the change.

The cloud is the IT equivalent of HRT – it’s a modern solution to a long-standing problem. Cloud implementation will almost certainly involve some short-term pain but, once it’s over, it’s over. With automated software and service updates and cross-platform access, the mid-size crisis is averted, with upgrade and versioning issues being largely removed.

Making it personal

So that’s all very well for the organisation, but the individuals working within it have to go through the change too.

Our work in Madrid has been particularly revealing. Implementing the full version of Microsoft 365 includes instant messaging, collaborative working, document sharing, etc. Watching people go through the change is fascinating.

Within five minutes of implementing the software on the PCs of the organisation’s young ‘digital natives’, even before we’d had time to begin training them, they were instant messaging each other, posting images on their profiles and discussing projects via the cloud and on their iPads. They loved it and ‘got’ it without hesitation.

Peter Chadha, is managing director of DrPete Ltd, an independent strategic technology adviser. Peter has been identified by IBM as one of the top 50 IT commentators in the UK, and is a regular commentator on TV and in the press.