Westcon’s migration to Microsoft’s BPOS Cloud Solution has brought sunlight to some broken processes that reinforce the need to really plan out before jumping to the cloud. Although we discussed this topic earlier in another post on the WestconCTO blog, we thought it might be of value to discuss it again but from a different angle. We would like to share our experiences in the context of the channel opportunities, the need for advisory services, and the recognition that although Cloud Services are the way to go for commoditized technologies such as email, even then the ramp-up will be slower than the hype due to the hidden complexities lurking in every organization’s business processes.
The Silver Lining here is the services and guidance that are truly needed are an opportunity since they appear to be underestimated in many cloud deployments. In our case, because of proximity of the physical servers, and the fact that it appears our own engineers were doing things on the QT (to genuinely help their business colleagues succeed), the business processes of our organization have become severely clogged or weighed-down. The “ease of use” of just dumping everything into email was in some cases compounded by business partners who took the easy way out, too. The interactions between the organizations, and within our own organization, relied more and more on “softly structured” data and less on structured data interactions. “softly structured” means to us that the information necessary to complete the transaction is structured, but it is wrapped inside an email, rather than just being communicated via a webservice or EDI. You can actually see the structure of the data in the email. The reliance on email, rather than taking the extra step to utilize existing message bus/SOA architectures is one example of the many types of process adhesions that your customer’s organization has most probably created, which will be exacerbated when they migrate to the cloud and all the cut-corners are exposed.
The opportunity is this – having an appropriate partner to work with when the end user is deploying a cloud service is crucial to success and an opportunity for the channel. There are “quick answers” to the problem (OCR the email would be one), and there are more strategic solutions (tighter, structured messaging/SOA designs that are easier to incorporate) that need to be addressed before the end user goes to the cloud. Our sense is that the smarter members of the channel will see this, and by bringing in the appropriate architects, process consultants, or engineers, the end user will ultimately be more successful in their utilization of the cloud. This does lead though to a hard conversation around costs. Most companies are not going to the cloud to improve their business processes, they are going there to reduce costs, and will perhaps not react well to the process re-engineering conversation that must occur before going to the cloud. Nothing worthwhile is every easy, and this applies to the cloud as well. This also means that any of your sales folks who are projecting cloud services sales within their pipeline had best ensure that they are allocating the appropriate lead time for this analysis. If not, they may suffer from premature pipeline projections, or the customer will suffer from an unsatisfied customer experience after the cloud service has been deployed.
We have had some great experiences in the cloud, reaping real dollar savings. We have also stubbed our toes. But this does translate into opportunity for the smarter members of the channel. Again, there are significant changes on the horizon due to the cloud. We feel having the early experiences here at Westcon, as well as at your own organization, with the impact of these newer offerings, will only help solidify your relationships with your customers.