Cloud Implementation – Opportunity or Mirage?

By Mahaboob Ahmed, April 16, 2015

Software as a Service [SaaS] products are built based on ‘blue ocean’ strategy [great leap forward, hunch-based product development, etc]. Besides, cloud implementations are relatively quicker than traditional on-premise implementations. For example, cloud ERP or any similar product implementation can be completed in weeks as against months or even years when compared with traditional on-premise implementations. But how? The answer is that by compressing and implementing every phase in the cloud implementation process as per the standard implementation plan.

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When it comes to ‘cloud implementations’, ‘time’ is treated as a precious commodity. In this process, implementations zoom through and decisions are taken in a jiffy rather than conducting and attending elaborate Conference Room Pilot discussions, Process Workshops, User Acceptance Testing, and Product Familiarization Sessions [all these are part of a regular traditional on-premise project]. Since shorter implementation cycles are expected, every implementation activity has to be accelerated to fit its timeframe in the given schedule.

In the initial stage or during demo, product features and capabilities are demonstrated to the customer at a high-level; a bird’s eye view. End-users are not provided an opportunity to play with the product before it goes LIVE. Because of this reason, end-user is unable to neither suggest nor recommend any kind of product customization at this phase. As a result, product customization takes backseat and is not focussed at this point.

Since customers get a chance to lay their hands on configurations, workflows, reports, or alert notifications only during the post GO LIVE stage, they realize all those ‘missing features’ and ‘processes to be tweaked’ only after they start using the product. This gives a big jolt to the customer because by this time they already started paying the subscription but cannot use the product due to the above reasons. Sometimes, not only this damages the brand image of the product but also leads to 50-60% of rework on the product [when it comes to the organization that is offering the SaaS product].

Besides, there is a chance that the customers may request for extended hand-holding or additional rounds of training post GO LIVE because of non-familiarity of the product. In this kind of scenario, expecting smooth operations from the day of GO LIVE is not possible. This blog advises implementers to plan for these additional efforts [timeline and cost] in the initial stage itself as it would take minimum 2-3 months for the commotion to settle down [post GO LIVE].

What I Think…

Since the subscription in cloud hosted model starts from the day one, the implementer is forced to offer the standard vanilla product [without any customizations!] in the initial stage and demonstrate its respective benefits to the target customer.

However, to strategically achieve business excellence regarding cloud implementations and avoid the above conundrum why not we do like this: implement a two-stage roll-out; an initial roll-out [focussing only the core customer project team] and a final roll-out [focusing the customer’s end-user base]. The latter has to be implemented after the core project team has tested all the possible scenarios and fixed the known issues. However, before implementing the phases, the implementation team should brief and prepare the key stakeholders for this extended implementation timeframe in order to avoid unnecessary disagreements and confrontations later. This way, based on your previous experiences, you can leverage your expertise to fix your customer needs on-the-fly and provide a full-fledged customized product to your customer within a short timeframe. This strategy helps to accelerate your business results and maximizes return on your investments.

In my next blog, I would be writing about the challenges faced during the implementation of ERP functions like Supply Chain Management, Transportation Logistics, Production Planning & Execution and Finance Integration.

I look forward to your response.

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Mahaboob Ahmed

Mahaboob Ahmed has 20 years of IT experience focussing on Design, Development and Implementation of ERP Products. He has managed Cloud ERP Implementations for a few hundred Small & Medium Customers across India; Implemented large ERP On-Premise Implementations across UK & Europe. He is currently architecting a world class Logistics Product with focus on Oil & Gas Upstream vertical.

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