In today’s wholesale ‘working from home’ environment, rather poignantly, cloud technology has made its business case
And once again, the idea that with such large-scale adoption of cloud applications, the need for traditional third-party technology suppliers is likely to be minimal, or even eliminated, is surfacing.
Undoubtedly, once an application is implemented in the cloud, the provisioning, upgrades and back-end maintenance become the responsibility of the technology vendor. It’s one of the major reasons why many organisations are adopting cloud technology – alongside the ability to work from anywhere and any device at any time. But the value that traditional third-party technology suppliers and proprietary vendors provide and how they approach solution provisioning and ongoing maintenance varies markedly. If third-party technology suppliers are doing their job properly, their appeal to enterprises is significant.
Understanding of complex IT infrastructure
Rarely are applications deployed ‘out of the box’ – in the cloud or on-premises. Third-party suppliers configure the solution to meet the needs of organisations’ business operations, and thereafter, continue to play a critical role in ensuring that the application works in the way it’s expected to. For instance, client PC or mobile device pre-requisites may need to be monitored, configured and updated regularly.
Enterprise IT infrastructure is complex, and no solution sits in isolation. Organisations deploy numerous software solutions for business functions – document and email management, ERP, CRM, finance and accounting, regulatory and compliance and supply chain management, among others. Many of these systems are also integrated as organisations attempt to create a unified work environment. Consequently, an upgrade of one system by a cloud vendor can cause a chain reaction impacting many or all the other solutions that have been integrated. Similarly, with many software developers having moved to agile software development, upgrades to solutions are regular, routine and ‘business as usual’ – both on-premises and in the cloud.
Due the complexity of multi-system integration, a comprehensive understanding of a client implementation is necessary, even if the third-party technology supplier is only deploying a single application. Frequently, the ‘symptom’ is different to the ‘cause’ of the problem. To illustrate, following a server upgrade of a cloud system, an error message may appear in another application – even though nothing has changed in the software system itself because it’s a victim of a change of code or bug within the upgraded system. This happens regularly as software vendors enhance their systems and application program interfaces (APIs).
While third-party technology providers undertake all the above, software vendors typically, only focus on and support issues, relate directly to their own proprietary solution. Cloud based vendors are primarily interested in selling licences. With limited technical resources and expertise, they don’t want to get involved with solving more generic technology issues as it requires building a full professional services team. On the other hand, third-party technology suppliers, due to the nature of their offering, skills and experience, are well equipped to triage issues and ‘problem solve’. Also, they take a service-led approach, providing ongoing holistic support. This is a major value-add.
Reliable, experienced and trusted advisors
Technology implementation is only the first step. An application’s success is defined by user adoption. For users, a new application frequently requires an altered way of working. It also presents them with uncertainty, which can lead to a resistance to adopt. Just because an application is hosted in the cloud does not mean that matters such as planning how end users are sold the system internally and trained, user acceptance testing and general use of the system is any less critical to the success of an implementation project. As trusted advisors, this level of change management is a significant service that third-party technology suppliers provide. It lends the ‘human element’ to the technology deployment.
Whilst cloud technology vendors focus on the development and quality of their software, they are reliant upon their third-party channel partners to provide the professional services to design, implement and support their products in customer environments. These technology suppliers take a consultative and best practice approach to change management. They offer expertise and experience that encompasses technical elements of the project, such as discovery processes to determine the problems that need fixing with the new solution; and health checks to pre-empt future implementation issues. Crucially, they greatly assist enterprises with a communication strategy, painstaking user acceptance testing to pre-empt adoption issues and personalised, role-based training for end users. Post deployment, they undertake ongoing reviews to ensure that the client is deriving full value and benefit from the products’ capabilities.
All this is made possible by a wealth of expertise, experience and knowledge that they have gathered from exposure to a variety of software applications and unique customer situations. Consequently, superior quality, customer focused, third-party technology suppliers will remain in demand. They distinguish themselves by delivering long term value, well beyond a solution implementation.