The What, Why, Where and How of Cloud: A CIO’s Roadmap to the Customer Service Cloud

BLOG: Deciding to make the move to Cloud can be a great business decision, and indeed for some companies it may even be the only real option for running a cost-effective customer service moving forward. While the benefits are much heralded, there are also people who are sceptical about how good it is. So how does today’s CIO decide when – or if – to move critical business applications to a cloud-computing environment? Neil Titcomb, UK&I Sales Director for Cloud, Genesys, explains.

The definition of cloud computing is multifaceted and confusing. Here are the main aspects of cloud computing and descriptions of what they mean:

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) – This is the first step most companies take toward moving to the cloud. Virtualisation is the enabling technology behind IaaS, providing better resource utilisation, cost savings and flexibility to companies in every industry. Most companies begin using virtualisation to consolidate servers and pool physical resources, then eventually move onto desktop virtualisation solutions once they see clear benefits.

• Platform as a Service (PaaS) – Provides a platform on which you can build applications usually linked to a particular vendor. This enables you to have cloud without having to install and maintain the expensive, bulky platform and tools locally.

• Software as a Service (SaaS) – Provides access to hosted software applications in the Cloud over the internet. The user accesses the application from any browser, and all data is stored centrally by the provider. SaaS simplifies operations and reduces costs; however, some companies have been slow to adopt this model due to concerns about security, control and reliability. SaaS is a similar concept to the Application Service Provider (ASP). Integrated hosting of applications and infrastructure allows companies to focus not on delivering and maintaining the technology, but on using the technology to create value and differentiation. Pushing IT operations outside the four walls also enables more flexibility and speed.

Why Cloud? Why not!

Security has always been a big issue with cloud, since every environment is subject to attacks and data theft. But the threat is in any model, not just cloud, and CIOs need to ask themselves what steps they should take to protect business data. Remember SaaS providers may be even more aware and prepared than internal IT departments to mitigate risk, because they have more at stake; their reputations, their profitability and ultimately their whole business model depend on delivering security and reliability.

Lack of control is often stated as another argument against SaaS. A company may feel a particular application is too critical to the business and not want to relinquish control to a third party. Despite this, some will argue that a company still owns the application, even though they don’t own the support function, and they can always bring the support back in house. The key is to find vendors with business models that align with your own and provide the level of support you need.

Some companies argue that running the same application as a competitor through a SaaS provider eliminates any competitive advantage. But remember, technology isn’t really the differentiator it used to be. The pace of innovation has accelerated to the point where everyone is neck and neck; it has more to do with how you use the technology you have to set yourself apart. Customisation may provide a short-term competitive advantage but in the long run, technology is always evolving and competitors will catch up.

The larger, looming problems most large enterprises grapple with are the cost of maintenance and limited ability to adapt to changing market conditions. The Cloud mitigates those larger problems.

Where to start – go for it!

Making the transition to Cloud is a big step, but do you begin this transition by moving your low-priority IT applications to a cloud environment, so that if something goes wrong, it won’t affect much? Or, do you create a sense of urgency around the transition and start with a mission-critical application? Perhaps the latter is the smarter choice.

To move an important application – such as a business-critical contact centre to a cloud environment does two things. First, it creates a sense of urgency that demands the attention of key players throughout the organisation. Second, it necessitates success. If you start by moving an application that the business depends on, failure is not an option. It also makes the initial overcoming of internal scepticism a lot easier, and helps get everyone on board.

How? Cloud Migration Requires Careful Planning

If you decide to make the move to the Cloud, you will need a migration plan to successfully drive the change throughout the organisation. Virtualisation is one of the most important elements of a cloud solution, for example, in order for remote employees to access applications over the cloud, virtualisation of these applications is essential.

Your employees are important as well to making the transition to cloud work, so on your migration plan, it is important to work alongside staff to ensure the smooth migration, and to make sure all of them are happy.

Choosing the right team

Choosing the right team to execute the Cloud migration project is an important step in the process. Moving to the Cloud will seem threatening to people in the IT organisation, so having a leader who is respected will help bring others along. Additionally, you want leaders who are open-minded, anxious to learn and optimistic. Because the Cloud is, for many, unchartered territory, the team in charge of its deployment must be open to new ideas and approaches, and optimistic that those ideas will be successful.

It is absolutely critical to select a cloud solution provider that is willing to develop a partnership with your IT organisation. Again, the provider should act as an extension of your IT team in order to build trust and align with your business goals and objectives. You need a provider whose culture is similar to your company’s culture, and believes in the importance of creating a business partnership, rather than simply providing a service. Your organisation and the provider must work seamlessly together for the end customer, which requires a services mindset.

It’s worth it!

Alongside concerns, there are a huge amount of benefits of making the migration to Cloud, here are some examples:

• Access to future upgrades – A great benefit of the Cloud is the access you will have to future upgrades. This means you will be kept up to date on the most recent technology and enhancements, enhancements that you may not have been able to afford or have the time to keep current.
• Faster innovation to market – By leveraging existing infrastructure and configurations, SaaS minimizes the need to customise applications, allowing for much faster delivery than internal implementations.
• Agility in responding to new business opportunities/threats – With a cloud-based IT infrastructure you can easily scale up or down in response to market conditions and business opportunities.
• Reduce Cost – The SaaS model has the ability to dramatically reduce costs, it is one of the main reasons people make the move to cloud. Companies can save on having to customise applications, and they only pay for what they need, when they need it.
• Improved performance for the business user – Cloud services are highly available, and are there at any time in order to meet customer demands. Reliable cloud providers offer backup and redundancy along with highly available infrastructure, so you never have to worry about your business coming to a halt because of a network issue or application hiccup.

Ultimately, satisfying customers is the main goal of a business. Deciding to make the move to Cloud can be a great business decision, and moving forward may provide the only real option for some organisations to provide the levels of customer service they need at a cost they can afford.