Cloud strategies can vary dramatically based on industry, size, and business philosophy, as well as many other factors. However, successful strategies have several things in common: they include an assessment of your solutions and an analysis of your requirements.
A good way to get started on performing this analysis is to take an inventory of your software applications and your ability to manage, update and scale them within your own environment. Then, based on your business requirements and available alternatives, determine which applications can be acquired more cost effectively from a cloud-based software vendor.
As the burden of installing, operating, or maintaining software shifts from you to your vendor, the four phases of the software lifecycle shift as well — to launch, perform, optimize and continually improve. In this transition, as the software consumer, you should expect to see benefits across the board as both you and your vendor evolve.
I’ll cover the first two phases in this post, and the next two in a later blog post.
Phase one: prepare to launch
Software vendors must have the hardware and software capacity ready or near-ready so that a customer system is running in days instead of the months typically required for an on-premise solution. To help you choose a vendor with experience in this launch phase, ask the following questions:
Phase two: perform
The performance phase is like leasing a car. You pay a monthly fee for the vehicle that is providing value. Included in this fee are “performance” items that are maintained and provided as a service — scheduled maintenance, oil, wiper blades, tire rotation and so on.
For cloud software, the “perform” includes monitoring, tuning, health checks and ensuring adequate capacity on demand. It also includes oversight in areas such as security, incident and problem management, and change management. With these factors in mind, investigate each provider’s record with respect to the following:
- Can the vendor ensure that adequate capacity will be available when you need it?
- Will the system be continually tuned to optimum levels?
- Is the system secure?
- Are incidents and problems resolved quickly and efficiently?
- Is the solution running at the latest revision level, and what is the process for implementing vendor and system update patches?
While the launch and perform aspects of the implementation are important, IT organizations get the most business benefits with optimization. Select a vendor that has both industry and solution-specific expertise. The vendor should be extremely familiar with best-practice processes for your industry. Moreover, the vendor must have a proven track record of keeping the solution up to date with enhancements that accommodate new technologies and changes in the marketplace.
Your cloud vendor should demonstrate its ability to introduce enhancements and new solutions in a timely fashion, so you are assured of being able to accommodate changing business conditions. A vendor with the right skills, knowledge, and experience can help you synchronize the solution with your business, enhance the knowledge of your staff and drive continual improvement. You can tap the provider’s experience to drive operational improvements; discover additional opportunities for efficiency, cost savings, and growth; and develop key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge your success.
In part 2, I’ll share how you can optimize and continually improve the cloud software lifecycle. In the meantime, do you agree with the first two? What would you add to this discussion?