Building Innovative and Impactful Cloud-Based Teams


Evolving tech stacks have been fueling cloud-based collaboration for decades. While teams have been connecting on tools like Slack and Zoom for years, the pandemic forced companies’ teams, culture, and employer-employee relationships to become cloud-based as well. Organizations that recognize this change as an opportunity to iterate and explore how they achieve outcomes have scaled effectively. Conversely, organizations that continue to operate around the pre-pandemic way of working have struggled to maintain their culture, experienced high turnover, and are scrambling to implement tech solutions to solve more significant challenges.

The shifts that led to these challenges highlighted the need for new and innovative ways of working, and the companies getting it right are unleashing their top talent to thrive in the new world of work. For companies like A.Team, McGraw-Hill, and Oyster, this looks like staying focused on an organization’s mission, prioritizing mission-aligned outcomes, and being intentional at all times. 


Dive into the conversation with experts

In our webinar, we discussed this seismic shift and more with cloud-based company experts Justin Singh, Chief Transformation & Strategy Officer at McGraw Hill, Kim Rohrer, Head of Employee Experience at Oyster, and Raphael Ouzan, CEO at A.Team. This one-hour conversation dives into the steps and strategies organizations are using to capitalize on the evolving environment to rewrite the ways we work.


Defining cloud-based company

The current definition of cloud-based on Google references “a network of remote servers hosted on the internet.” As we heard from A-Team CEO Raphael Ouzan, this description does not reflect the migration of each layer of an organization’s infrastructure to the cloud. Arguably, the core layer of a business is its people, and people are not simply a network of remote servers. The strategy for modern cloud-based companies must balance outcomes with an intention to elevate their people and performance. 

Traditional cloud-based work looks like multiple people in a headquarters building working side by side on cloud-based tools like slack. 

Modern cloud-based companies look like distributed teams using cloud-based tools to drive innovative mission-aligned outcomes.


Prioritizing mission-aligned outcomes

Prioritizing outcomes may feel obvious but focusing on mission alignment is how leaders drive high performance in a rapidly changing world. This thinking forces leaders to ensure each process or project is in service of the mission rather than executing on an existing operating rhythm. 

As Raphael Ouzan highlighted in our conversation, “the empowerment of teams toward mission is enabling companies to move much faster to tackle a much wider surface area and to enable companies that haven’t been able to transform for a while.”

Here are the tactics our experts are deploying to deliver mission-aligned outcomes:

Raphael Ouzan, CEO at A.Team
  • Raphael is focused on how team goals build upon one another to achieve the company’s mission. This prompts him to reexamine strategic decision-making, such as headcount planning. Headcount planning is often an annual process forecasting team growth in certain departments or roles. Raphael argues that headcount planning needs to evolve from annual spreadsheet development to define the real problems and their solutions. Once there is alignment around those solutions, consider what the teams need to drive those outcomes.
Justin Singh, Chief Transformation & Strategy Officer at McGraw Hill
  • Justin’s team engrains the mission by defining and committing to the “why” every quarter. This “why” is the foundation of the weekly outcomes that the McGraw Hill teams define and share. Then, the team comes together at the end of each week to review the outcomes and celebrate progress. As Justin says, “this offers a nice clean end of the week, but there’s a celebration of moving towards that vision that the collective team has been working towards.”
Kim Rohrer, Head of Employee Experience at Oyster
  • Kim dials in on how inclusion and equity are essential to achieve mission-aligned outcomes. The absence of inclusion can impact people’s ability to contribute and collaborate. Kim discusses the need to ensure diverse voices are heard, included, and elevated anywhere decisions are being made.

To prioritize mission alignment, one must establish operational processes emphasizing mission-aligned outcomes, redesign existing processes to serve the evolving priorities, and ensure inclusivity is the foundation of every business decision, process, and practice.


Focusing on intention

Our panel of experts’ discourse on mission-aligned outcomes quickly evolved into a discussion on intention. Putting intention are the forefront allows cloud-based companies to create connections, redefine culture, and explore innovative solutions as the walls of the traditional company dissolve for the better. Historically, some of the most innovative ideas come out of serendipitous conversations in the office. While some leaders fear that innovation is dampened in the cloud, companies recognizing team members’ increased access have been experiencing more innovation than ever before. 

McGraw Hill, founded in 1888, has been focused on intentional innovation in the cloud, and Justin Singh explained, “it’s allowing our teams to experiment …with different models, working with different types of vendors, and different types of employment.” Justin cites this experimentation as improving culture and amplifying their shared purpose around improving education. 

Raphael Ouzan notes that cloud-based companies have democratized work as people formerly on the fringes now can have increased access and autonomy in how they work. Leaders recognizing this opportunity as a way to empower teams are working faster and scaling more effectively by intentionally creating cross-functional teams to solve mission-aligned problems. 


Where to start 

While our expert panelists are innovating in the cloud, not every leader is in the same position, nor is every organization ready to completely change the way they operate. For those hesitant to jump in, consider Kim Rohrer’s perspective “You can’t just try to replicate it…working in the cloud – sitting next to each other slacking and Google-docking next to each other. If work is going to be distributed in the cloud, we are going to also be distributed in the cloud.” 

The first step is to consider and define what it means for your entire company to be distributed in the cloud. Explore the next section to begin transforming your business and step into the future of work. 


Transform your business

For those ready to dive in and transform your business based on key takeaways from this conversation, here are some tactics to deploy and questions to consider:

Audit your company’s infrastructure
  • Which layers of the business are operating in the cloud?
  • How have we adapted those layers as they transitioned?
  • Are we operating the same as we did before the transition?
Examine how decisions are made
  • Have we empowered crossfunctional teams to make decisions or are leaders making the majority of decisions top-down?
  • Have you examined how strategic planning and goals are set or are you continuing business as usual?
Be radically intentional with your greatest asset
  • How are we making every part of the employee lifecycle inclusive and equitable?
  • As we define operating rhythm and/or the broader culture, how are we onboarding teammates to be fully bought in?
  • What does it mean to be a company in the cloud and how have we adapted our operations to empower teams?
  • How are we building relationships and trust among teams to be able to collaborate effectively and share feedback?
  • What norms need to be unlearned to create innovation and inclusion