For a small to medium size enterprise what could be some of the areas they need to evaluate before opting for a cloud based service, infrastructure or platform?
- Business objective – the business objective is reason number one to determine if the organization needs cloud or not. This factor is not restricted to smaller players alone and every organization should drive their cloud initiatives based on their business objectives. The difference for smaller organizations is to keep in mind their core business and evaluate their growth patterns over a time period. They may wish to start off with a smaller cloud initiative, such as using Google Apps for business, and then move on to larger cloud infrastructures over a sustained period.
- Scalability – with technology advancements happening by the hour in today’s fast paced world, smaller organizations are faced with the challenge of scaling their infrastructure. Even if they are able to sustain scalability to a certain extent, legacy systems cause tremendous overheads and deter companies from moving ahead at a faster pace. The cloud helps you off-load scalability related decisions on to your service provider without having to worry too much about upgrades and new hardware requirements.
- Cost – the popular fear among small organizations is the cost involved in acquiring a piece of software or technology. They assume that this is a one-time cost and conveniently overlook the aspect of cost involved in maintenance and upgrades – an off shoot of the scalability aspect mentioned above. There are costs involved in running an IT department to maintain these systems, especially if the core business of the organization is non-IT related. With the advent of cloud, businesses are able to focus on their core activities without having to worry about technological aspects. This does not necessarily mean lesser IT staff but a more judicious use of skill and talent available.
Let us consider CRM solutions, one of the most popular applications required by any growing business – small or large. CRM solutions are offered on the cloud as a SaaS (Software as a Service) model reducing the cost of implementation tremendously. For a small business to opt for a cloud based CRM, the following could be some of the driving forces –
- Implementation Complexity – how complex or simple is the solution to be implemented; both from configuring business needs and maintenance of data or admin overheads? CRM solutions need to be implemented with great care considering the amount of complexity associated with business processes and customer needs management.
- Ease of opt in and opt out – does your cloud solution allow the flexibility to move in from one platform to another platform? Can you expand your platform needs from a custom development to manage your CRM needs?
- Space and hardware requirements – will your CRM cloud solution provide adequate storage? How easy is it to scale up your hardware or storage? Many cloud providers automatically provide increased storage or hardware usage, while you don’t want to go through a painful process of obtaining more space at a premium cost. Very often organizations sign up for what seems like the perfect plan only to realize eventually that they require an extra 500 MB of storage or scale from a 2 GB RAM to 4 GB RAM during peak usage. How easy is it to get your cloud service provider to scale up without spending too much time on the paperwork is a critical factor.
- Security of data – This is the single largest barrier after cost that stops small (or any) businesses from opting for cloud solutions, primarily due to the fact that customer data is not stored or hosted in your control.
- Integration – how easy is it to integrate other aspects like financial systems, back office systems or ERP systems with cloud based CRM offering, without compromising on security of data and minimal business overheads like workflow integration etc.?
- Service Level Agreements – The SLA is a commonly overlooked aspect, which if not addressed properly can cause severe business downtime. What kind of SLAs does your cloud service provider offer?
- Mobility – This is the natural step after a cloud based CRM solution? How flexible and advanced are the providers in implementing mobile solutions for you?