Insight

Are you prepared for Life in the Cloud?

5-7 minute read

Are You Prepared for Life in the Cloud?
Are you Adapting to a Post Covid Life in the Cloud?
How Covid will affect your SaaS Strategy?

The Covid-19 Pandemic has changed the world as we know it, probably forever.  Some business models will have ceased to exist, but all will require modernisation and change to the new normal.  What can you, as architecture leaders do to help and assist your Senior Stakeholders and business at a whole?   Right now, most companies will be looking at their cost base and supply chains and seeking to stabilise those before any other decisions are made.  However, once they are your CxO level stakeholders will be looking towards the next priority, which will be the resilience and agility of business models.  SaaS-based software will enable this but can you think beyond the here and now to ensure that decisions the business make now on this subject will stand up to scrutiny in the years ahead?

Part of this change will be moving more and more systems and primarily departments into the Cloud.  In some cases, this may have already happened, and you will have areas of your business getting used to their shiny new SaaS-based system.   You are officially in the cloud…. however, now what?

  • Were you ready for it?
  • Did you know what to expect?
  • Were you prepared for it?

The old way of bespoking a system to within an inch of its life will not be valid in the new world where nimbleness is prized, as this will result in a less than optimal business processes which slowly becomes intertwined within an organisation and then inevitably becomes difficult to let go of.  With agility and resilience being the key for business moving forward, SaaS offers the adaptability that enterprises require.

This change, like all change, brings about an entirely new sense of challenges that CxO’s are currently worrying about:

Source – McKinsey

At the moment, you will be under pressure to bring some quick wins to your organisation, and there are several things that you can look at which would be baked into a Cloud Strategy:

  • CapEx to OpEx revisions, e.g. contract renegotiations, legacy-to-cloud services
  • Lower SLAs and availability of on-site support
  • Project portfolio pruning
  • Decommission systems with low usage
  • Other IT costs reduction strategies, e.g. reduced infrastructure capacity

You may have already noticed that the above list is centred on the implementation and go-live phases, but typically a business is in a postgo-live phase for far longer than any of these other phases.  So while you are looking to make some needed quick wins it is essential that you don’t switch off to what will happen next. So it is especially critical to focus attention here for three reasons:

  • Continual change is the new norm; the change doesn’t stop at go-live.
  • Adopt or miss out; are you ready for the continuous cycle of technology change.  With Bain Research predicting that AI will drive 15% of global growth in the next decade being on an ongoing improvement journey is essential.
  • Partner with the vendor; this is a relationship worth continued investment.  Right now, we are seeing organisations looking for huge savings from the technology partners.  Ask the question of what you can expect in the long term if this is your approach.
Mindset Shift

Partnering with a  vendor is one of the most significant benefits of being in a SaaS world but also the one that people struggle with the most, mainly because it is a change in mindset. SaaS technology is continually evolving, and, if chosen well, the vendor you partner with will provide enough new functionality to support your business ambitions well into the future.

But this is only possible if you can pivot to a position of being able to complete sprints of deployment throughout the year. Do you have the foundations needed to support this, though? I’m talking about the necessary infrastructure and resource, as well as the alignment of business process to the ‘best practice’ prescribed by the vendor. If not, it will be a struggle, but it really doesn’t need to be.

With Gartner suggesting that 9/10 issues on Transformation Programmes are people rather than technology, it presents a very challenging dynamic for the architecture leaders.

Internal Challenges

Without the necessary foundations and an ongoing change management strategy, large proportions of the product are often unused and switched off, which is sadly seen in too many businesses. This, in turn, impacts the value and return to financial owners, practitioners, customers and importantly, the employees. The focus has to be on the processes and infrastructure which can better align to a SaaS model.

Other problems that that we find within our clients is the education of stakeholders who are used to customising software to their “unique” requirements and Architects who are used to the old world and are nervous to change, who then can become blockers.  With the focus on agility and human centred Enterprise Architecture becoming move prevalent you will need to ensure that you Architecture team has the required skills to help stakeholders through this journey.

Adopt or miss out;
Adoption of SaaS technology is happening at two levels.

  • Within your user base
  • Within individual business functions.

The risk of not being in a position to support the business through the changes that a SAAS product offers is going to be felt most acutely by users. This is one of the most crucial points often overlooked; if people aren’t using the product because it’s confusing, cumbersome or not keeping pace with ever demanding needs and user expectations, then the product will become shelf-ware, and your investment will be wasted.  Gartner suggest that 70% of project fail due to lack of change management.  If there is not a dedicated Change Management person or team within your organisation, how as Architecture Leader can you overcome this problem?

Equally, if your support teams or SME teams cannot absorb the changes, then you may need to switch off functionality. Consequently, you aren’t using something you have paid for…..hardly a good investment is it?

Here’s a quick overview of additional elements you might want to consider:

  • Spend some time considering routes that are giving people support at the “point of need” ensuring the they don’t navigate away from the task in hand, or even worse, give up entirely. The unintended impact here is the need for additional support which can be costly and easily avoided.
  • Also, look for opportunities to gather feedback on the experience users have and critically listen and respond. Use this insight to work with the vendors.
  • Ensure that business teams are regularly looking at opportunities to use the new functionality and assess whether it’s fit for purpose. This will take time and potentially new skill sets for your teams. But incorporating this into your operation will pay dividends.  This should be part of an ongoing change management function.
  • Don’t underestimate a carefully placed talking head or brief message from a sponsor of the programmes to help reaffirm and support the change as well as offering a clear direction.
Partner with the Vendor

This is definitely a relationship worth the continued ongoing investment of time and attention, if not you will likely fail to reap the full benefits and value of the product, and miss opportunities to influence the roadmap. If managed well, this relationship could help you to influence the product, which will be vital in giving your employees and customers the experience and enablers they deserve.

This influence happens at two levels:

  • The longer-term direction of the product – understanding the roadmap of a vendor can provide a foundation to base your processes and core operations around. It will give you the opportunities in future to innovate and differentiate within the market.
  • Incremental change and support – smaller enhancements and upgrades are being driven by ‘people power’, so if demand is high enough, changes can be included. You can and should feedback into this roadmap to raise the needs of your users and business priorities. The bottom line? Make sure you are heard or risk missing out.

Ask yourself the question; if as an organisation, you are so focused on driving down suppliers costs how much will they be willing to truly partner with you in the future?

Is this what your current supplier relationship currently looks like?

And what now?

The world of Cloud and SaaS is very much here to stay, post Covid-19 more so than ever. We are in a period of change and adapting to a new paradigm of how we implement and manage the services we need in order to run a business. But there are some key areas of focus which, if you can manage effectively will help make the most of the potential for, productivity, employee experience and the best value for money.

So, if you take anything away from this discussion, let it be the following:

Continual change is the new norm. This was true before Covid and will only be magnified post.  Upgrades and new releases mean the implementation doesn’t stop at go-live, you are in a constant opportunity to change, and the more prepared your organisation is, the better.

Don’t cut so deep you cannot turn the lights back on – Focus on what your business, technology strategy and strategic relationships should be post Covid.  Ensure that you make the right decisions now so the technology and strategy can quickly adapt to what will be a rapidly changing landscape over the next few years.

Adopt or miss out. Be ready to take advantage of a continued cycle of technology change. Communication is key and support is vital at the point of need. If you forget this, you risk not making the most your investment

Partner with the vendor. This is a relationship worth continued investment, just ensure that you are an active participant in the relationship, and you’ll find it will yield dividends.

Martin Colyer

Chief SaaS Strategist – Konvergent
mcolyer@konvergent.co.uk

Ben Clark

COO – Konvergent
bclark@konvergent.co.uk