Part 2: How the Cloud Impacts the Software Lifecycle

I recently wrote about how the shift to cloud computing moves the burden of installing, operating, or maintaining software from you to your vendor, and how the four phases of the software lifecycle shift as well. The new lifecycle phases are launch, perform, optimize, and continually improve. In this transition, as the consumer of the software, you should expect to see benefits across the board as both you and your vendor evolve.

I covered the first two phases – launch and perform in my previous post titled Part I: How the Cloud Impacts the Software Lifecycle. In this final part, I’ll cover optimization and continual improvement.

Phase three: optimize

A strong vendor-customer relationship fosters improvements in a variety of ways. The vendor can help you align the solution with your business requirements to help you achieve operational improvements that yield business benefits. Operational assessments, for example, can lead to recommendations for improvements that streamline business processes.

You can tap the vendor’s solution expertise and industry insights to uncover additional areas of your business where you can achieve greater efficiency and lower costs. The provider also can guide you in developing KPIs for gauging success. Retailers, for example, would look to a supply chain solution provider to help them establish KPIs for measuring forecast accuracy, demand satisfaction, and channel or store performance.

Optimization is the core of where customers see and continue to receive value from the solutions they’ve selected. Overall, software solutions over time can deliver less value from the natural “friction” that occurs in nearly every business: erosion of skill sets from users extracting value from the system; new employees not being adequately trained on the solution, and more importantly, its application to the business; an inability to apply the software to adapt to changes with the business (e.g., acquisitions, consolidations), and so on.

Phase four: continually improve

The business environment continues to evolve and expand as new technologies emerge and customer expectations change. One of the major advantages of cloud architecture is that it can provide the agility to address this dynamic environment. Not every cloud-based software vendor, however, offers the same level of agility. It’s important to think about how much flexibility and agility you need to support your enterprise and select a provider accordingly.

Vendors can deliver on the promise of agility in several ways. For example, they can work to help customers continually evolve to higher levels of proficiency with existing solutions. This involves training and knowledge transfer related not only to how the solution works but also to how to apply the functionality to the customer’s business. Additionally, a vendor that has a modular offering makes it easy for customers to start with a single module or area of functionality and add on as the enterprise is ready to absorb additional functionality.

For example, improving inventory management may lead to opportunities to deliver more efficiency from transportation operations. This could create another opportunity for another cloud-managed solution.

Business-oriented KPIs established in the optimize phase provide the visibility that drives continual up leveling of proficiency and ongoing improvement in the evolve phase. KPIs also enable you to demonstrate the value of IT to business users and management through metrics that are meaningful to the business community.

Next stop: a total solution in the cloud

What does a total solution in the cloud look like? With cloud, a software vendor is able to transform the relationship with customers and provide significantly greater ROI while continually increasing business value, more so than is possible with traditional, on-premise solutions. That greater value is the result of going beyond delivering capacity to delivering capability. The result is a collaborative partnership that dramatically improves business results and allows enterprises to gain long-term value from their IT investments.

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