In part two we chat with Martin English about his views on moving to the cloud for collaboration.
Martin English Bio
Martin is a certified SAP BASIS / Netweaver consultant and has been working, consulting and administering SAP and Netweaver systems since 1996.
Martin's roles have included consulting at various levels, including pre-sales and customer consulting, system Architecture, system administration, installation, implementation, upgrades and migrations.
Mike Reddie (MR): How will collaborating in the cloud change a business?
Martin English (ME): At the moment, most people think of this in terms of cloud computing or internet services, where the key points are:
- You pay for what you use; whether it's email accounts (one per employee, $5 / user / month) from http://www.google.com/intx/en_au/enterprise/apps/business/pricing.html or a full blown CRM ($65 / user / month) from Salesforce http://www.salesforce.com/crm/editions-pricing.jsp
- You are paying for what you need, not what you (or the provider) have to build; i.e. you get billed for email accounts, not for hardware and cabling and software licenses and support staff. The cost of the service is directly related to the number of employees using the service which makes spending much more predictable
- The 'sausage factory' of providing the service (IT, office space, ..) is owned and managed by the vendor, giving the business more time to concentrate on the "value add".
Another way to view this is in terms of the Collaborative Economy, where businesses and individuals share physical goods and services instead of buying and owning them. Examples include temporary staffing (where sites, such as eLance, Freelancer, even Gumtree and eBay, let you hire the right person right now for a micro job), transportation (ridesharing via Uber may mean employees or businesses may not need to have a car at all) and even temporary accommodation (ranging from AirBNB for houses or rooms down to sites such as Liquid Space, ShareDesk and PivotDesk that let you rent individual desks, offices or meeting rooms in somebody else's space). Obviously, you should consider the implications that these have on your business model, but just as important is to consider how you can use them. The simplest example; opening a sales office in a new territory doesn't require an office any more.
MR: Out of the seven key considerations listed in the attached discussion paper, what do you believe is most crucial?
ME: A key item missing from the Regulatory Environment section of the paper is a discussion around the dispute resolution models. Speaking as an IT guy, we have it relatively easy - technology either works or it doesn't, and it's relatively simple to determine if your network hardware is sufficient to implement a particular cloud based service. But the real work starts once the technology stops working - If you buy a service that you rely on, what happens when that service stops? How do you get the supplier to pay attention? A truism about cloud computing vendors is that the larger you are the larger you will get. From the SME perspective, this makes dispute resolution a bit of a David and Goliath story. Associated with this is the question of inter-operability. Assuming that there is another vendor that supplies the same or a similar service, how easy will it be for your business to change providers, if they can't provide something you need, or if the vendor goes bust?
MR: What are the key factors that cause a business to fail when implementing collaboration in the cloud?
ME: Insufficient research when selecting partners and tools, leading to the choice of unstable partners. For example, the service providers need to have enough other customers to provide economy of scale, to be specialists etc.
- Change Management - Your business processes will change, there will be different lines of responsibility within the organisation, there may be staffing changes, etc.
- Making it an IT driven project. The final result works wonderfully, but it doesn't always help the business.
The failure to start - You are failing your employer / shareholders when you fail to take advantage of the benefits of best-of-breed commodity services.
MR: What advice would you give organisations that are looking to implement cloud collaboration?
ME: Speaking as an IT geek (I build and run my own personal SAP systems...), this is not an IT decision or process, it is a business decision. Good IT teams already know this and will already be thinking about cloud collaboration and communicating with their peers within the business. You still need the IT team as trusted advisors and it wouldn't hurt to remind them that their influence within the business should be measured in terms of value not spend.
Don't be fooled by the race to the bottom in pricing:
- You need to make sure you get value for money, but you want your service provider to stay in business to support you.
- You can get all you need cheaply, but getting unnecessary bells and whistles will add to the complexity and the price of the solution.
It makes sense to keep the stuff that differentiates you from your direct competitors in house.
If you haven't read Part 1 check it out here
To find out more on collaboration go to http://www.optus.com.au/business/voice-collaboration
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