OPINION ~ By Sadiq Munshi, Product Development: Cloud Solutions at Jasco Enterprise

Technology is an integral part of our working lives; applications and software availability have brought power to users that has never been seen before. Software as a Service (SaaS) is becoming more attractive in the workplace, as it allows businesses to leverage a piece of software located in the cloud – be it an accounting, CRM platform or the like – without the need to purchase any hardware or manage the platform internally.

There’s so much choice when it comes to SaaS, so how do companies ensure they’re getting the most out of the technology they choose to use? It starts with appreciating business needs, and partnering with the right systems integrator to reduce waste and maximise technology utilisation. Moving to a cloud-based service model has hidden benefits, over and above the cost savings implications. In order to maximise the utilisation of the chosen SaaS solutions, businesses will be forced to leverage training, re-look their business processes and re-think their hiring processes, all of which have operational benefits in the long run.

Making the right choices

It’s critical that organisations choose software that is conducive to their needs as a business. This involves understanding how your organisation’s people and processes work, and what you want to get out of the technology. It’s also important that organisations think about the “why” behind wanting to use a particular software solution. It’s not enough of a justification to say that a certain solution can lower costs and that it does not need to be managed internally; it’s essential to match the needs of the business to the rationalisation of the purchase.

Ensuring efficient technology utilisation is only possible through training and choosing technology that is fit for purpose. Much like handing a car over to an eight-year-old child, without the ability to drive the car is useless to the child. Equally so it can even be dangerous to drop in a technology solution without training, as it can be detrimental to customer experience, incur waste and increase internal costs and lead times for customers.

Partnering with the right expertise

These are not choices that an organisation needs to make in isolation or without assistance. A systems integrator should play a pivotal role in the journey to the cloud. The system integrator should be the organisation’s partner in that they understand the business processes, the technical infrastructure and have an appreciation of the business’ pain points. The systems integrator needs to know where the business is going strategically and tactically in order to drive the company to achievement of its goals.

The systems integrator also needs to act as a mediator between the technical and operations teams, who will each be pushing their own agendas (the technical team concerned with system performance and getting the best systems, while the operations team is concerned with optimising processes, budgets and making money) and given that there’s usually a conflict between the two, it will be up to the systems integrator to mediate and come up with the best solution that meets both requirements from a technical and operational perspective.

While most people think that migrating to the cloud and embracing SaaS is as easy as switching software on and off as required, it’s usually more involved than this. While it is technically that simple, it’s easy for executive management to forget their processes and the implications thereof. What change management is required? Do you need to take into account systems integration? What’s the impact on the customer? Businesses spend a lot of time thinking like a provider (looking outward), instead of looking inward as a customer and it’s here that a systems integrator can really show value.

In order to create the space for a systems integrator to add value, we need to change our thinking from a Service Level Agreement (SLA) way of transacting, which is costed on and concerned with site visits and a ‘break/fix’ methodology, to a Business Level Agreement (BLA) scenario. This means that the business gives the systems integrator a certain number of targets (whether these are sales, revenue or profit targets) and it’s then up to the systems integrator to do what’s required from a technical and advisory perspective to achieve those operational goals and objectives. This puts the systems integrator in a position where they are forced to understand the business imperatives and what challenges might exist, and they are forced to work around those challenges to achieve the goals.

Unlocking the hidden benefits

When it comes to selecting the appropriate software, organisations need to choose a partner that will offer a modular solution, whereby required features can be selected or excluded. Be wary of making a decision that requires radical changes in internal processes in order to benefit from a solution. Spend little time finding the match between processes and technology in order to ensure the best fit, as without the ability and readiness to properly use technology, waste will be the result.

When processes are aligned strategically and tactically, SaaS solutions are chosen based on their ‘fit’ with organisational goals.  Users are then trained and the organisational culture can then facilitate progressive thinking. This is what will unlock the potential within cloud computing to be utilised so as to generate a favourable competitive advantage.

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