Cloud Platforms, not Cloud Providers are the Real Story
Whether enterprises are migrating to the public cloud or moving to a hybrid option, the big three public cloud providers—AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud – dominate the conversation. This is understandable, and in my past at Cisco and Teradata these were the companies with which to build relationships and products.
Whether enterprises are migrating to the public cloud or moving to a hybrid option, the big three public cloud providers—AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud – dominate the conversation. This is understandable, and in my past at Cisco and Teradata these were the companies with which to build relationships and products. However, more businesses need to move beyond the question of cloud technology providers and pay attention to their choice of cloud application platforms.
Imagine a situation in which you, as a business IT decision maker, need to implement a new business application. That’s all totally doable, but a problem remains: you need to get that infrastructure up and running. You still have a myriad of different applications with different inventory masters, customer masters and APIs all trying to work together. You have a completely new user experience that your teams are not familiar with.
What was once an on-premises problem has now simply been shifted to the cloud. In fact, in a cloud world, the issues are actually more prevalent as a result of frequent updates and inconsistent data models. It is well established that the backbone of any modern business should be digital, but without a clear application platform strategy, businesses end up with a fragmented architecture and a hybrid landscape.
Therefore, businesses can spend all of their time carrying out integration testing between various new software versions from different vendors, all of which are on a different release cadence, across many platforms. While some large enterprises can get net value from this model known as “postmodern ERP,” the vast majority of organisations experience unnecessary risk. Integration’s break, time is wasted, costs for testing are higher, innovation is sidelined, and key knowledge leaves the organisation through attrition.
What’s more valuable for most organizations is to select one to three anchor cloud application platforms that provide a unified infrastructure. Salesforce is an example of an anchor platform for many organisations given its broad ecosystem.
Releasing the friction
An analogy I come back to when discussing efficient enterprise IT infrastructure is that of a car. If your various business-critical systems aren’t working in sync and if data isn’t flowing between them, it’s causing friction within your business processes. Like grit in your gears.
One of the common reasons data isn’t flowing properly across the business is because the burden of setting up a post-modern ERP architecture is so heavy, the organisation doesn’t have the energy or funds to connect the data and unlock the insights. Various systems are hosted across different architectures and require complex data mapping. If a new business requirement arises, and the data isn’t organised properly, a lengthy process ensues.
To alleviate this friction and begin to unlock customer insights, businesses need to reduce the complexity within their infrastructures. Aligning themselves within an application ecosystem rather than hopping between different systems and architectures can achieve that.
When limiting to 1, 2 or–if required for the business–3 anchor platforms, every piece of data is properly connected and accessible in real-time. There are few APIs or mapping issues, enabling a business to be agile in their decision-making capabilities. If a business lets its data stagnate, it is failing to capitalise on all the benefits it can bring to the organisation, namely predictive and prescriptive analytics that tell leaders where the business is going and what should be done differently. Additionally, when applications are native to a platform, they get better every day because of the constant innovation being done across your platforms of choice.
Choosing the right cloud application platforms
If anchor platforms are the way to go, how does a business leader go about choosing the right ones for their organisation?
The first consideration should be the ecosystem that surrounds the platform, including the business applications that run on it. The greatest value is derived from maximum consolidation onto the platform, so the ecosystem must be robust. The right platform drives results, solves business challenges, and has a marketplace where you can find proven apps and experts to help support and grow your business.
The best platforms provide an intuitive and innovative experience for both your employees and customers; switching over to a new platform will involve some training and adjustment but it should not be an enormous undertaking. In fact, many of the applications will have similar user experiences, reducing the learning curve over time.
The right platforms will enable users to access data in real-time, acting as a single source of truth by leveraging a single customer account record. This gives everyone in your business a shared view of your customer and accelerates their efforts to work together towards your customer’s success.
While it is important for you to have access to your data in real-time, it is essential that you also have complete control over who has access to that data. The best platforms for business will be secure, let customers own their own data, control who has access to it 24/7, and not examine your data, even in aggregate, for marketing or sales purposes.
Choosing the right 1-3 cloud application platforms for your business ensures that scalability will not be an issue and transforms the role of the IT organisation. It takes information technology leaders out of the endless integration-building, testing, and management business and puts them at the forefront of driving operational excellence for the organisation. Salesforce, which is expected to become the largest enterprise application provider, is a great example of one such platform. But there are options to choose from so it’s important that businesses weigh the above considerations. Once they have the best cloud application platforms for their needs, they will be able to truly maximise the rewards of the cloud for their business.
By Scott Brown
Scott Brown, President and CEO, leads FinancialForce’s mission to help organisations connect the front and back office with the leading customer-centric business suite on the Salesforce platform. Before joining the company, Scott was Chief Revenue Officer for publicly traded data analytics leader Teradata, where he led 5,000 professionals across sales, customer success, engineering, and global consulting teams to deliver an exceptional customer experience. Scott earned an MBA in Marketing from the Loyola University of Chicago and a BA in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He has taught MBA-level courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Northwestern University, and Duke University.