As many large organizations realize the risk to benefit comparison swing in their favor, many companies are moving their IT applications quickly into the cloud. Whether it is Amazon Web Services, Google Apps, or Office 365 they all advertise significant reductions to internal IT and infrastructure cost, as well as a more unified workforce. Additionally, a lot of cloud solutions advertise how much simpler and more effective connectivity and collaboration are for their company. Although all of these are possible, the adage “if it sounds too good to be true” may apply.
Obviously, some of the challenges your organization is experiencing may actually be exacerbated by moving your service or enterprise portal to the cloud. Knowing what to watch out for and where to best spend your time can save time, money, and professional heartburn and will ensure success
Security and Compliance
Is your type of business and the content you share on a daily basis internally something that should be in in a cloud solution Bio-pharma, financial services, and even some legal content is subject to compliance regulations that prohibits moving some content or using sharing platforms.
Beyond overt compliance needs, it is good to consider the culture of your organization around security. Although the argument is continually being made that security is better in the cloud than it is in most on premises infrastructure, perception is sometimes more important than metrics. If your stakeholders perceive a security risk, you will be fighting an uphill battle. Finding help making the argument to move to the cloud may be more important than the technology.
User Skill Set
Considering what you are using now and the change management effort required should be forefront in the decision process. If your workforce is having trouble with your collaboration platform today, chances are they will have the same problems in the cloud unless you address both on-boarding and long term training needs. No one likes to hear how much the new solution is failing after the hit to the budget.
If you are making the investment, then making sure your ease of access and mobility needs are met shouldn’t be overlooked. A brief usage study identifying the business challenges of your existing platform will yield some good indicators on what your next solution should include. It may even help to identify where some platform savings are. Buying the bigger feature set to make sure you are covered isn’t always necessary in a cloud offering. Many of the cloud solutions offer a way to “grow into” their expanded feature set. These studies usually pay for themselves when your user base is greater than 200.
Undoubtedly you are already using several tools that reside on your own on-premises infrastructure. Inventory of those tools and how that software might work in a cloud environment requires more than guarantees, it requires testing. Saying it will work in the cloud doesn’t typically cover what the user experience will be. When the page load time for your Customer Relationship Management tool goes from 2 seconds to 15, you have lost the effectiveness of your sales team.
The upside is that there are typically ways to reduce the number of overall tools when you move into a cloud-based platform. Be careful of the slight reduction in features that might occur in the “cloud-version” of your software. Although these slight reductions can be handled, they require some solid change management as you move between platforms.
Long Term Licensing Cost
The bigger players in the cloud collaboration space lean their advertising on the savings you will experience through reduced IT staff. However, remembering the pricing for long term, per user costs are important. If you consider how your user base might grow if you are successful, it may make the difference between two different cloud options. Most cloud solutions include bulk pricing but make sure the thresholds set by the provider will actually apply to your organizational growth projections. So often the pricing model is geared to punish the company that hasn’t quite hit 5000 users but makes it affordable for the less than 1000 user company. That is a pretty big gap that could tip the scales on your budget at a time you are being asked to invest in growth rather than software licensing.
If you are doing things right your organization will grow and to pick a platform that will be the best for you in five years is hitting a moving target. Make sure that your solution includes a clear migration path off of the selected platform in the event you need to move somewhere else. Since you can’t predict where your company may go, avoid picking a platform that will make it cost prohibitive to move. This is often overlooked, but consider the likelihood of a merger or acquisition that might force you into a scenario where you have to add thousands of users or have to move to a different platform that your new owners prefer. This is usually impossible to anticipate which is why making sure the solution you pick has a tried and true migration plan, tools, and an off-boarding process. Chances are if this can’t be demonstrated, it doesn’t exist.