Monday, January 14, 2013

To the Cloud or not to the Cloud?

By now you have seen hundreds of articles about the benefits and draw backs of Cloud based solutions.  The reason you may be reading this and other articles is either that you have not figured out whether it is a good solution for your business or you want to confirm the decision you already made.


If you are already in the Cloud, then more than likely you want to make sure it was a good decision.  After all, even if everything is okay, chances are you want to make sure that you are not the only one on this path.  Who will support you, answer questions that arise from new technologies, create new features, if you are the only one.  You do not want to be abandoned, because no one else chose your path.

If you are not in the Cloud you may be wondering if these solutions would answer your growth pains, lack of growth, cost challenges or support issues.  Is this the magic pill to solve your issues?  Will choosing this path enable you to compete?  Give you features that your customers want?  How will you get there and what happens if it does not work out?

Some of the many benefits of Cloud based solutions:

·         Scalability – Add more users, computing resources, features without having to build it yourself.

·         Financial – Change some of your expenses to operational from capital.  Predictable costs, adding what you need when you need it.

·         Administration – Someone else is responsible for hiring and training and keeping everything running.

·         Fault Tolerance – Someone else has taken responsibility for disaster recovery and business continuity into consideration.

·         Connectivity – Anytime, anywhere access for everyone.

·         Self Service – Users can access capabilities without human intervention.

·         Standards – Compliance with software and industry standards.  Helps to standardize internal operations to software structure.  While restrictive at first it puts the company into standards of growth.


Some of the many concerns of Cloud based solutions:

·         Information – Who owns your data?  Who has access?

·         Connectivity – What happens if my Internet connection goes down?  How do I support my remote users?

·         Maturity – On premise solutions are typically more mature and feature rich.  Vendors are working constantly to provide all the same benefits to Cloud solutions.

·         Pricing – User and/or resource costing can scale with usage, where on premise cost tend to be self contained, but sometimes overpaid.  If you lose the ability to pay, so goes your access.

·         Information – Relatively easy to get information to the Cloud, not so easy to get it back.

·         Ownership – Who owns the software and the rights to use it?

·         Customization – Use as is, often little customization is possible.  You make your operations match the software, not software to operations.  What if you need custom interfaces or reports?


So to answer your question-

·         Should you go to the Cloud?

·         Should you choose and on-premise solution?

·         Did you make the right decision to go to the Cloud?

·         Did you make the right decision not to go to the Cloud?


Answer: It depends.


That is about as clear it gets. 


The first priority should be an analysis of what you need to service your customers better.  Better customer service, better inventory management, better on time deliveries, better accuracy, better and easier access for your customers to do business with you.

The second priority after you know what you need to do to service your customers, remember if you do not your competition will, is an analysis of where you are now.  How do know what to do, if you do not know where you are.

Find out where you are and where you want to go.  Fill in the gaps between here and there.

Now you are ready to determine if a Cloud solution is appropriate.  Many Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions are available in on-premise and Cloud versions.  Same solution, different ser vice.  Often there may be a feature differences.  It might make sense to work with a solution in-house, and then migrate to the Cloud. If there are missing features, are they necessary or important?  You may be able to go directly to the cloud. 

Remember the implementation is going to be the single biggest cost category.  Conversion, testing, and training.  It is going to take time, cost money, and generate a lot of frustration.  Check to see if the solution provider has any success stories in your industry.  Almost all will admit challenges in the implementation, but typically you will hear the message “I wish we had done this years ago”, if they are happy.

Are you happy? 
A good place to start is with a trusted advisor.  Someone who has walked this path before and can guide you through the maze.  Contact Dolvin Consulting today.  We are here to help.



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