“May you live in interesting times” is an ancient Chinese proverb, and it has never been more so than the present times. We are at the crossroads of technological progression and never before have we had such a rapid growth and adoption of technology by businesses. At the forefront of these changes is Cloud Technology that is enabling Software, Platform and Infrastructure as a service (X-a-a-S). The emergence of cloud and its innovation is taking place with such vigor that the pressure is on businesses to adopt Cloud technologies in order to remain successful. While these advancements are impressive and bring about great value to businesses, they are also overwhelming. With an ever-evolving array of choices in Cloud Services and the pressure to adopt them, businesses need carefully evaluate not only the costs and benefits of the Cloud application, but also itself – particularly its own internal business processes.
Per recent reports, more than 80% of small to mid-size businesses use the cloud in some form. For an SMB, the investment into IT are a significant part of their overall balance sheet, and so many such enterprises who want to migrate to the Cloud, have to do so slowly, often system-by-system, since a big-bang migration is often high in cost, difficult to manage and very risky. At the heart of any such IT system migration is change, and change must be well managed so that it is welcomed and adopted across the organization. It is easy to have misconceptions about Cloud – that Cloud solutions will solve all the business problems. But that will never happen until the change is managed well and business processes are mapped from the old to the new system.
Customization Vs Configuring
During the early years of enterprise systems, the statute was that the technology follows the business. That is, business processes of a company were the standard, and the system was customized to fit and follow the established processes of the business. With cloud, we are seeing a paradigm shift – one where the Business has to follow the technology, because that is where the rapid strides are taking place. That is, businesses need to be open to modifying their processes as per the system. The primary reason to do so is that cloud based SaaS systems are managed by the provider and periodically updated, bugs fixed proactively, etc. Overly customizing the system to fit your business can make the system unfit for such upgrades and bug fixes. In SaaS systems, customizing the solution by means of custom development can be done, but are often tedious, and have the risk of not being compatible with future upgrades. So, for the sake of benefiting from the SaaS Cloud based systems, businesses must be open to altering their business processes and adapting the processes in the Cloud enterprise systems. To address this need, many SaaS systems are now following the approach where the solution can be configured, instead of having to customize.
Migration to Cloud is similar in many respects to migration from one system to another, but there are some additional considerations to take into account. The main aspect of migration to cloud is that the flexibility to customize the solution is limited. So, business process owners need to think through their processes carefully and carefully map their processes to the new processes in the Cloud system. Some processes might be better implemented in the native features of the SaaS Cloud solution, some processes might have alternate ways to achieve the same end goal, while some other processes might be a complete misfit to the company’s required way of working. As business process owners, existing processes and use cases must be carefully reviewed, compared with the Cloud system’s processes and decide which processes must be adopted by the business, and which ones needs the system to be updated.
Role of IT
With the changing market forces, IT needs to modify the role in plays in this process. In the early days, IT was the harbinger for introducing new technologies into the organization. With cloud and its accessibility, business owners are able to get access to information on cloud applications just as easily. Many times, business owners are the ones that are pushing for cloud systems. In these times, IT needs to play the role of a consultant, ensuring that the business doesn’t adopt the cloud processes too quickly without considering all scenarios, but at the same time does not dismiss a Cloud system too quickly for not having the processes setup in the way they expected.
Cloud systems are very powerful if deployed in the right way, and in fact, the only way it can help the business achieve its goals.