Aligning a Cloud Strategy to Your SMB Goals

April 3, 2017

In 2016, the business consulting group Accenture conducted a survey of almost 1,900 C-suite executives around the world. This “Cloud in the Boardroom” study (available as a LinkedIn slideshare) found that even though 95% of these leaders had a five-year cloud strategy, only 38% had aligned their plans with overarching business goals. They were all on board, but only some knew where they were going.

To be fair, the larger the organization, the more complex the task of aligning all the people and initiatives. For a smaller sized company, this sort of planning can be simpler, although it is just as crucial. Writing for TechTarget, writer Esther Shein gathered valuable commentary on the Accenture findings:

Steve Terp, president of Concerto Cloud Services, contributes to the discussion, articulating how cloud hosting should be viewed: a tool for agility, efficiency, and focus on business needs instead of technology. Likewise, Accenture director and tech officer Jack Sepple points out that "cost reduction, business agility, and better data-driven decision-making" are the areas where cloud services can best assist a company.

Amid the many voices celebrating cloud solutions, it can be easy to lose track of these business purposes, as well as the fact that even the most powerful cloud systems are not perfect. While every business will certainly benefit from improvements in agility and efficiency, aligning technology to goals means that the question is not, "Will this somehow help us?" Rather the discussion should revolve around, "What business needs should our company address first?" If cloud-supported cost reductions or improved decision-making is the answer, full steam ahead.

Sepple also points out that the value proposition for cloud-hosted software, whether that is an ERP suite, a CRM package, or an accounting module, has a broad impact. Implementing a cloud strategy might begin with the company officers, but it immediately draws in the IT staff and eventually effects everyone in the company. Oftentimes the success of an implementation will hinge on how closely IT staff, line-of-business personnel, and executives coordinate.

Executives who are confronted by the profit margin each day can have an easy buy-in. Similarly, IT staff will clearly see the technical benefits of hosting software in the cloud. Your technical team might need to ramp up on some aspects of SaaS. The Accenture study found that not all IT team might be instantly ready to deploy a cloud-hosted solution. Brett Gillett from Amazon Web Services pinpoints a few key areas of preparation: understanding software development, how it runs in the infrastructure, network connectivity, performance when different systems are integrating, and security. This learning curve needs to be part of the overall alignment conversation.

The folks who will use the software each day might have the most dramatic impact on their work. To help this segment of your team, the consulting agency SADA Systems recommends taking time to help individuals understand why their work tools are being shifted around. It's possible that from their vantage point, things may not appear to be broken, so there isn't much need to fix them. SADA has formulated a Value Envisioning Workshop for this purpose, which consists of time and attention spent on creating the vision behind the change — a vision that should grow from close alignment with business goals. These goals can be presented in business use cases that your team will relate to, then discussed directly, and delimited with specific success criteria.

Clearly, the desire for a successful move to cloud hosting cannot be made on a whim. And while your organization is probably less intricate than some of the global corporations who responded to the Accenture survey, a small or mid-sized business cannot afford to waste resources in a problematic, ineffectual software deployment. A careful fit of cloud strategy to business goals sets the stage for your success.

 

Going beyond the articles referenced here, a final detail should be addressed. A cloud-hosted situation is also a long-term relationship with a vendor, even more so if they are developing custom apps for your precise business needs, as is possible with FileMaker Cloud. These people are not exactly on your staff, but they will have a critical role to play, during deployment and for months and years after. Be sure to select a group that has a track record of outstanding support.

 

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