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Easter Special: They Key to Success – Consulting and Systems Integration

April 3, 2012

For customers and service providers alike the cloud is a challenge. As a customer you are faced with questions whether you should and where and how to use cloud computing. The customer’s core issue is to find out where to get real help. As a provider you need to ensure that you differentiate yourself from the competition and play your best cards. Bottom line the story is different though, if you have a real service mindset, you ask yourself how to create the biggest value for your customers. And as a matter of fact value usually is not the cheapest price. If you only could get that message across, you would succeed.

It might sound strange now if I proclaim that Consultancy and Systems Integrations are the solution. Isn’t that old IT business while the cloud is all about apps and online orders? True in the consumer world we have seen a change but in the enterprise world other mechanics of doing business do apply.

Let’s have a look at what happens if you as a customer reach out with an inquiry about the cloud.

  1. Classic Consultancy firm

You get one of two answers. The first one is really that they do not see cloud as a strategic element yet and rather discuss outsourcing strategies, etc.  The other answer might be that they create a project for you doing the analysis of the cloud vendors and your needs but, surprise surprise, leave you alone once you need to implement it.

  1. Cloud Vendor

If you go to Google, guess what the answer is. It is Google Apps. The same applies for SalesForce.com and other cloud vendors. Microsoft has a slight advantage here as they can give you two options (cloud an on premise) rather than one.

But bottom line is, they will try to sell you their products and services. The same by the way applies to software and hardware vendors.

  1. Classic system integrators

These companies are usually a partner of one of the cloud vendors and that creates a similar behavior. Another flavor is the range of partners that are more or less openly against cloud computing as it takes away their core system integration business.

The biggest downside though is that they cannot deliver the Run portion of Plan-Build-Run whether you go for the cloud or not. So their limitation in the area of delivery, limits the directions their advice might go.

So does this mean you ran out of options? No actually not, there is one category left that could address this business on all levels. The Full Service Providers that combine consulting business with system integration do offer hosting, outsourcing and cloud computing and can really look into what you need to succeed in business.

Someone who is able to walk with you through the whole process from planning to operations is what you need. Offering an advice independent of the delivery choice you take as they can deliver all flavors. Someone, who can not only translate the benefits of the target solution to your business but also can show you a viable way to get there, will finally help you to make the right decision on your way into the cloud.

Are the full service providers there yet to drive this approach? No, they are not. Many do struggle to include public cloud services into the bigger picture and create an offering landscape that includes all options. But the constant nagging by customers, as well as additional efforts by the likes of Microsoft or Google do create a cultural change. The challenge will be to create the consultancy and system integration offerings in a way that they include all options.

The basic question then is to the customer in which way they aim to address the cloud topic.

  1. Workload specific strategy

Cloud computing being an option in the decisions to be taken workload by workload with the ultimate aim to create a delivery mix that addresses the business needs best.

  1. Cloud strategy

Trying to introduce cloud computing by combing through all of IT to identify areas that would benefit from the cloud is another approach. This very IT centric approach appears to be only a starting point but not a sustainable approach in the long term. See here for some thoughts about this:

http://clouddiscussions.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/weekend-special-is-cloud-computing-as-a-trend-over-and-actually-deceiving-cios/

http://clouddiscussions.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/cloud-strategy-is-that-a-must-have/

Whichever way you choose the challenge for the provider is the same. You would start with a Cloud Readiness Analysis of your existing environment. This assessment will include an infrastructure assessment as well as some deeper understanding of your IT strategy and plans for the immediate and long term future. Once this has been done you should have a clear understanding about opportunities as well as potential roadblocks. The combined approach of a technical and a consultancy (maybe even business consultancy) view makes clear where the challenges are for potential providers and why classic consultancies and system integrators are not best suited. Only the provider that could create a team that is cross functional and combines the needed skills will be able to meet the customer expectations.

It could be that some might argue that this sounds quite over the top for the workload specific approach but that is only true for a part of the process. A CIO needs to put in the rails which create the boundaries of business department driven cloud computing. As this again calls for a combined knowledge of software development, cloud technologies, business process and organizational “know how”, the approach is the identical.

So where would you turn and which are the few but precious providers that cloud deliver a full scale approach? I will not put forward any names here but my best bet is that they already work for you one way or the other. If not just take a look at the ways the companies address cloud computing. And maybe you want to hire a freelancing consultant who has great market knowledge and can guide you through the process.

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One Comment
  1. Interesting analysis and it is the case that the channel is still configuring it positioning and capabilities to add ‘cloud’ to an existing portfolio of products and services. Microsoft has just completed some interesting work that will help its partners to re-position their business (offer, propositions, more focus on services) according to the roles that they want to play and that is all documented in a book Thinking of…Selling Office 365? Ask the Smart Questions along with reveals to many of the questions asked above.

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