When something takes center stage, the instinct of most people is to move towards it. While this may be understandable, it is also exploitable for those having an interest in such movement, and it seems to me we’re seeing this every day in the domain of Enterprise Performance Management (EPM).
What’s taken center stage is the idea of the cloud – that this is where data will be stored, applications housed, the critical work of IT executed – and the exploitation is chiefly done by EPM vendors with cloud-only solutions. Most of those vendors are promulgating the idea that the path to the cloud is a leap that must be made now, and that enterprises need to decide now where they are storing their data based on the tools they are deciding to use. That’s not a path; that’s a garden path where your feet are not on the ground anymore: it’s simply not the way decisions should be made when driving towards digitalization of your organization.
The Promise of the Cloud
The promise of the cloud is a great and fulfilling one. Everything is simple and fast; there is no hassle with IT provisioning and the flexibility is endless, yet that’s a promise that can also be misleading. Why am I saying that? Today, vendors come to potential customers with a cloud solution that requires them to adjust their processes to the solution as well as loosen their data governance. That may be advised if the processes are broken; but I’d venture to say the overwhelming majority of businesses are not going to change their company just to implement a new service. The software service will need to adjust to the company’s processes and the solution will have to support different jurisdictions and requirements by country or vertical; therefore, customers would and should be advised to carefully shift while having all related decisions taken up front (process, data governance and usage).
This is a little unorthodox to those preaching that a leap of faith must be taken – they don’t like to acknowledge that sometimes their promises fall short of the hype and require a lot of investment (i.e., time, personnel, money) to make the “simple cloud solution” flexible enough to work with and within the company’s processes.
Hybrid Approach Is on the Rise
A recent Gartner survey shows that the majority of mid-market and enterprise-sized businesses want to continue to maintain their legacy on-premises solutions. This does not mean they are not supporting the cloud; it just means that they are investing in best of breed cloud solutions that embrace and extend their legacy investments. Understandably, they don’t want to lose IP assets like existing planning and analytics models, which is often the consequence of moving into a pure cloud environment.
What this means in the short and mid-term is that the pure cloud environment where loosely coupled cloud solutions become the basis for operations remains far in the future. Yes, the era of on-premises monoliths is over; but what is emerging as the dominant architecture is the hybrid approach, where an on-premises core remains with cloud solutions in key domains. It is just too expensive to rip and replace everything and start from scratch.
This reality – what is actually happening on the frontlines of organizations – points to another: that for all cloud momentum and success, the best-of-breed approach is more meaningful. It helps moving at a pace fast enough to drive acceleration in digitalizing the business processes and adjusting to the requirements of an established business. New enterprises don’t face this balance act – they can and should start with their head and feet in the cloud.
A Snapshot of Development
As the illustration below underscores, the cost-of-ownership advantages of cloud versus on-premises hosting are an attractive proposition – one that adds fuel to the cloud’s gathering momentum. And it should be considered when debating the cost of on-premises vs. license fees, as this is not the point. The value for cloud computing is not debatable.
What You Should Seek
To avoid “surprises” in implementing solutions, companies should look to those vendors who are flexible and realistic, able to provide a seamless experience wherever the data resides. This means solutions that are built for integration with existing enterprise systems and new best-of-breed applications and features. Such an approach empowers the customer to make the decision about solution deployment, and not be forced into one by the software vendor’s solution. Deployment options should be flexible to fit the current status and legal obligations of a customer’s strategy, be it cloud, on-premises, or hybrid. The solution should provide a smooth path to reach strategic goals and objectives, one easy to upgrade and maintain, and one that does not disrupt the business during those processes.
Leveraging such an approach allows a company to enter the cloud on its own terms, at its own pace, when it determines it is ready to make the transition, as opposed to having it implemented by fiat from outside.
Importantly, seek a business partner – not just a vendor. At the end of the day, your decision is about your data, and making sure that there is trust and confidence in those working with that data.
Look beyond the technology a vendor offers to the value they bring in providing innovation and best practices. You’re not just selecting technology; you’re choosing a solution to provide your enterprise a sustainable advantage.
Be sure of strategic IT involvement early on in the process. If your business is already in the cloud, you will need planning in the cloud. If you have a private cloud or internal datacenters, you may need a hybrid or on-premises solution. Make sure that your vendor is flexible and can support your needs. Together, you must establish how you will integrate with on-premises systems, ensure enterprise data security, and understand the level of customization and control for your team.
All Roads Lead to Rome
Today’s cloud computing is a bit like ancient Rome – all roads are leading there. The fallacy propagated often is that there is just one path to reach the destination – regardless of whether it makes sense from the user’s perspective. It’s good to see that studies are showing companies having the wherewithal to take their own decisions, protect their assets, and take the journey according to their own vision.
From a vendor’s perspective, this means developing product that makes corporate performance management seamless, regardless of where the data resides.
Our Take on Cloud EPM
At Jedox, we are facing very diverse customer requirements. Most of them are related to the demand of having a software service flexible enough to adjust to changing business requirements and process changes. Some of our customers are legally obliged to store data in-house in some countries, yet want to roll out into the cloud in other countries. Other customers want to transfer their on-premises processes and IP into the cloud and not rip and replace all services built over years.
This is where Jedox helps to seamlessly move solutions from on-premises to hybrid to cloud-only. Or vice versa. It all depends on the specific needs of agile enterprises.
(This post was originally featured on LinkedIn Pulse)