Not all businesses need to move to the cloud, and not all business problems can be solved by cloud migration. But strategic cloud implementation may actually solve persistent business problems that don’t seem to have any correlation with your network infrastructure.
This is in part because there’s no single definition of what “the cloud” looks like, which means that its many possible variations can accommodate and improve a variety of business challenges. Here, I’ll outline five common problems that could signal your business might benefit from implementing a cloud solution, as well as a process for evaluating whether and how cloud migration might help.
1: Cash flow and financial management issues
These can manifest in a few ways. One common situation we encounter is that a company’s financial reporting processes are outdated. This causes problems like:
- Wasteful or inefficient spending.
- Feeling like you’re always playing “catch up” and even failing to meet certain obligations.
- Insufficient information to make decisions that have a financial impact on the business.
- Lack of synchronization between accounts receivable and accounts payable.
- Financial statements that are rudimentary and take a long time to compile.
And the kicker: there’s “never enough time to do it right” because everyone is busy taking orders, delivering solutions, or working with suppliers.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it may be time to move your financial reporting applications to the cloud.
Cloud-based accounting lets you see data in real time, which lets you make decisions with the latest information available.
A cloud-based system also allows for instantaneous and continuous synchronization among teams, and, in many cases, automated report generation. That can translate to serious time savings for the accounting team.
2: Increasing employee turnover
Employee turnover is expensive. Replacing a high-level worker can cost more than 200 percent of their salary. That means you’ll be allocating resources to managing a revolving door of employees that you should be allocating to growth projects.
So what might employee turnover have to do with a company’s network infrastructure?
What we’ve found is that, when businesses develop inefficient processes to solve problems and those processes harden into “the way it’s done,” then employees can become frustrated and leave as the company grows.
Symptoms that your turnover might be related to insufficient network infrastructure include:
- Some essential business functions (e.g., employee expense reimbursement) have no defined process.
- Many functions (ERP, SCM, CRM) are mostly manual or partially automated with help from minimally configured IT systems.
- Your customers and suppliers have subpar experiences because of shoddy processes.
If any of these are true at your company, there’s a good chance your employees are getting fed up. It’s demoralizing to have to apologize to customers or partners over and over because a payment takes two weeks to process.
Unless you make necessary changes, these employees will eventually leave, which can start a vicious cycle in which it’s hard to both recruit and retain talent.
A cloud migration can help here because it often allows companies to pull data from previously siloed databases, which can enable automation and streamlining of previously cobbled-together processes. This can make employees’ day-to-day work easier while also improving the experiences of customers, partners, and suppliers.
3: Your customer service reputation is taking a hit
At first glance, a customer service problem may sound like a training or personnel issue. But if your data lives in unconnected silos, there’s a good chance that your customer service reps aren’t the main reason for the bad experience.
If they’re working with outdated infrastructure, they probably aren’t able to handle customer requests as quickly as they should. Or maybe they’re not able to deal with questions on the platform customers prefer to use. Or maybe customers are just tired of giving their name and address every time you transfer their call, when you should really be sharing this information among team members.
These types of customer service problems tend to arise when:
- Applications have trouble accessing data in multiple databases simultaneously.
- Users have to access multiple applications to tap into multiple data sources.
- Integrated customer record views can only be assembled manually (and certainly not in real time).
Moving your databases and CRM to the cloud may alleviate these problems. Cloud-based infrastructure can not only eliminate silos but also introduce a functionality layer that makes it easier for customer service employees to access and use the data you have about your customers to create a custom, personalized experience.
4: Your processes are Workaround City
If your team has to consistently MacGyver its way around legacy IT systems with manual and semi-automated workarounds, you could be in need of a cloud migration.
Often, when employees resort to workarounds, one driving factor is that the IT team doesn’t include people with the right skill sets. This problem tends to develop gradually: you need to maintain your legacy systems, so you hire for those skills. But when it comes time to modernize, you may find that there’s no room in the IT budget to hire for new skills like DevOps — and so nobody on staff understands the new technologies, systems, and operating methods that could make your business more efficient.
Or the team simply doesn’t have time to evaluate new systems because they’re so busy maintaining the legacy system. This means you maintain the old systems longer and longer, but as employees become used to more efficient processes elsewhere, they start introducing workarounds.
This is a tricky situation. While it can often be addressed by migrating to the cloud, you’ll have to carefully manage personalities and expectations on the IT team, many of whom may be resistant to the change because they’re afraid of losing their job.
We’re in a tight job market right now, so be sure to consider whether you can train your existing team for DevOps and other skills necessary to maintain your systems in the cloud, should you deem that a migration would help.
5: Customer-facing projects keep getting delayed
This can be a particularly disheartening situation when your competitors start to consistently beat you to market with new, experience-enhancing tech.
While there are plenty of reasons that important projects might be delayed, one that we’ve noticed a few times is that businesses are spending too much time worrying about risk and recovery.
While having a disaster recovery plan is hugely important to any business, talking through potential plans without taking meaningful action can mean you aren’t spending time on mission-critical projects.
Disaster recovery can be a particularly pernicious timesuck because it requires input from high-level members of the leadership team, which means these people are focusing on disaster planning rather than strategic growth measures. If you’ve found that your DR planning involves more talk than action and barely-there progress, it may be time to think about cloud-based DR options.
One of the nicest features of DR in the cloud is the ability for service providers to offer DR as a Service (DRaaS), meaning you get an excellent DR plan with minimal day-to-day involvement from your team.
How to move to the cloud
Up to here, I’ve outlined some of the “what” but haven’t offered any of the “how.” As you can likely tell if you’ve read this far, the cloud comes in many configurations. How can you decide whether one of them might be the solution to the business challenges you’re currently facing?
I recommend working with someone experienced in cloud migrations who can walk you through the following:
- Identify your business objectives. Do you want better financial reporting? Faster customer service? Hint: if your problem can be solved by cloud migration, chances are you’re experiencing more than one of the pain points outlined here. When you make this list, be sure to include all your objectives for migration.
- Review your applications. Your cloud provider will likely want to take a close look at the current applications you’re using to see whether any of them are ready to be moved to the cloud. If they’re not, the team will determine the extent to which they’ll need to be refactored or rewritten.
- Do infrastructure discovery. During this step, your cloud provider will work with you to determine which elements of your infrastructure need to move to the cloud and how other components of your business will need to change to adjust.
- Consider security. Once your cloud provider determines which apps and infrastructure components are cloud-bound, they will work with you to determine what kinds of security measures need to be in place to adequately secure your data, whether you’re moving toward a public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid environment.
- Update monitoring and alerting. Your cloud provider will help you determine how these components will work with your new configuration.
- Build a BC/DR/plan. Once you’ve identified the cloud setup that will help you achieve your business goals, you’ll want a disaster recovery (aka business continuity) plan to prepare for a potential outage.
The cloud is a business solution
I’ll say it again: cloud migration isn’t right for every business. But it should always be a transition led by business needs rather than purely tech motivations or a desire to keep up with the competition.
Understanding the roots of the problems your business faces will help you understand whether a cloud migration might help your company solve them.