Partnering in the cloud - Best practices

IT procurement has historically been a long and complex process. Just setting requirements, conducting supplier reviews and doing proof of concepts could take months and even years. And that was before there was any visibility of the business outcome.

One of the major attractions of cloud, therefore, is the rapid set-up and deployment of services, made possible by the fact that organisations don’t need to select, buy and install individual hardware infrastructure. Instead, they are able to make purchasing decisions about a business outcome, based on simple benefits and pricing models.

This makes IT innovation much more flexible and agile and less complicated and time-consuming to get up and running. You could be forgiven for thinking this means cloud computing is to enterprise technology what Tinder is to the dating world. If there isn’t a match, you can always swipe right to move on. But, as in life, selecting a partner is more complicated than that, and not quite as easy as cutting ties in a relationship when things don’t work out. Making your choice and managing the subsequent relationship requires careful consideration.

To start with, implementing cloud-based technologies isn’t as simple as pressing the ‘on’ switch. It needs to be done in a way that supports existing business processes and legacy technology, while enabling new ways of working.

If you start using the cloud without paying attention to what is already present in your organisation and how the new service will interact with existing systems, the efficiency and flexibility benefits of cloud won’t be fully realised. The ‘wiring in’ of new technology takes time, and often requires different cloud partners and technology companies to work alongside each other to ensure everything functions in the way it should. A new cloud partner must therefore be willing and able to work in this way.

And, if your cloud implementation proves unsuccessful or your requirements or strategy change, there is the challenge of switching everything – from data through to workloads and applications – over to a new provider. This is a process that shouldn’t be taken lightly given the strict regulations that govern the movement and location of data.

Another key consideration when selecting a cloud partner is ensuring that the provider supports the full range of different cloud services you require across the different layers of cloud: infrastructure, platform and software.

It is often the case that organisations dip their toes in the water with one cloud application, say for HR, and as a result of the success, move other applications to the cloud, to support their sales or service departments or to manage finance and payroll. Often because of business processes, these applications need to interact with each other, and so it can be useful to work with organisations that offer a suite of applications that can easily integrate with each other.

If you have cloud-based applications you might want to extend or customise them. While an early requirement might just be for compute and storage (infrastructure) to build on applications, you might decide to add new capabilities such as mobile channels and data visualizations (available as platform services) in the future. Typically, working with the same company will bring greater efficiencies and more effective processes than cobbling technologies together from a range of sources, and make ongoing management of them a far simpler task.

Another aspect to consider is that cloud computing is still relatively young. It’s highly likely that there will be significant vendor consolidation over the next five years as the sector matures. It is, therefore, worth considering the likely longevity of your cloud provider and product roadmap. This is a fast moving space, where you expect new features and capabilities to be added in regular upgrade cycles.

Like any human relationship, selecting the right cloud partner requires collaboration and a period of getting to know each other, in order to ensure you develop and grow together over time.

If time and care is taken during the selection process, it should be the beginning of a beautiful relationship that stands the test of time.

Neil Sholay, Head of Digital, EMEA, Oracle

Image Credit: Chaiyapop Bhumiwat / Shutterstock