Rampant cloud adoption across industries and business sizes may have some wondering when the hype will peter out. The short answer: not anytime soon.
By 2018, more than half of large enterprises are expected to have at least one workload running in a public cloud environment, up from only 10 percent in 2015, according to McKinsey research. This ongoing push away from on-premise systems has analysts expecting global public cloud market revenue to jump more than 60 percent by 2020. As the cloud market grows – in terms of services, solutions, and vendors – CIOs face greater pressure to navigate it and build cohesive technology stacks for their organizations.
Assembling the right foundation of core applications sets companies up for greater innovation down the line, making it easier to capitalize on advanced concepts including machine learning, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics. In order to devise the best stack strategies for 2017, there are a number of considerations IT leaders should keep in mind:
1. Let best-of-breed be your M.O.: In the past, most IT departments sought out single-vendor suites that promised the functionality of multiple programs in a single package. More often than not, these all-in-one solutions performed each function 60 percent well, but none 100 percent great. Given today’s diverse vendor landscape, organizations can yield dramatically better results and returns by following a best-of-breed adoption approach. Whether you’re searching for a payroll, VoIP or a collaboration app, a bit of due diligence to identify the leaders in each arena (and compare their features) can go a long way. Even if you already run a critical application on a platform like Salesforce, there may be a plethora of best-of-breed tools that can be bolted onto it for specific tasks.
2. Compatibility is key: The mandatory component for any successful tech stack is interoperability. Implementing a set of best-of-breed tools that can’t speak to each other creates and exacerbates silos between internal teams, hamstringing your organization’s productivity and collaboration. For instance, if all of your sales and customer information lives in a cloud-based CRM app, IT needs to ensure that program can “talk” to your invoice and accounting apps. When vetting new tools, always research what level of compatibility they provide and whether or not an API is available to build custom integrations.
3. Set strict security standards: Your organization’s stack is only as secure as the third parties that help manage it. As the cost and frequency of corporate data breaches rises, companies can’t afford to put employee or customer information in the wrong hands. IT leaders can more easily assess different vendors’ defenses by developing an exhaustive security questionnaire. Include questions that touch on every part of the cybersecurity spectrum, from PCI compliance (for the vendor and their data center) and ISO certifications to data encryption methods, breach notification protocol, and data offboarding.
4. Don’t skim over the fine print: Cost plays a leading role in determining the right solutions for your tech stack – making it imperative that IT leaders understand the full financial implication of adopting any tool. Particularly with SaaS apps, most contracts give vendors the authority to enact price or subscription fee hikes at any point, for any reason. So while your organization might get a great deal through the first year of using a new app, the cost after renewing for year two could be double or triple the initial amount. Before signing on with a new vendor, discuss the possibility of baking price hike caps into your contract that would keep increases between 5 and 15 percent (unless there’s a significant change in features).
5. Note vendors’ track records: In IT years, the SaaS market, despite breakneck growth, is still young. Part of building the best cloud-centric stack, however, is partnering with tried-and-true vendors that will be around for years to come. Gambling on a startup without a proven track record may mitigate expenses in the near-term, but any change or disruption to their business could negatively impact yours (not to mention your data.) One way to assess new vendors’ stability is researching the venture capital firms backing them – including what successes they’ve had and whether or not they have similar companies in their portfolio.
6. Remember, end users might know best: Historically, the relationship between IT and lines of business was transactional: IT implemented new solutions, giving end users little say in the process. But rolling out apps without buy-in from the people they’re intended to help leads to poor adoption rates and unhappy end users – plus additional IT support costs. Today, the most strategic IT teams collaborate much more closely with their colleagues. From marketing to HR, each department is an expert in their domain and the tech vendors that support it. Rather than procure tools in a vacuum, IT should include business managers in the conversation around which vendors to consider for different core apps and whether or not the functionality meets their team’s needs.
The right IT stack is much greater than the sum of its parts. Sustainable, agile technical environments aren’t built so much on bells and whistles as they are on security, compatibility, cost efficiency, and end user satisfaction. By keeping each of these factors in mind, IT leaders can build stacks that support, rather than obstruct, their organization's’ evolving needs.
Ryan van Biljon, VP of Mid-Market at Samanage
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