Increasingly companies of all sizes are benefiting from the commercialization of Cloud solutions that have an extremely low cost of entry such as Cloud-based email and applications. A recent Wikibon study comparing Google Apps to Microsoft Exchange concluded that on-premise Exchange is nearly 4X the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Google Apps.
While most observers will concede that Cloud apps can be delivered more cost effectively for the majority of small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) and perhaps even some large enterprises depending on the application, three of the biggest barriers to Cloud application adaption so far have been:
- Security policy issues and concerns with sensitive data and potential unauthorized access to company files;
- Speed of application implementation and delivery to remote workers with smart phones and PDAs including setup, training, and latency concerns;
- Adoption of different workflows by key lines of business and a disconnect with IT staff and new technology.
However, this resistance may quickly be eroding as more companies, driven by real business needs, are seeking the availability of innovative applications that will help them meet their requirements.
During the August 3rd 2010 Peer Incite discussion, the Wikibon community learned how Lincoln Cannon, Director of Web Systems for Merit Medical Systems, with the help of Symplified, Inc. , a Google Apps partner, worked with his sales and marketing department to build a secure, inexpensive, and user-friendly application to provide training materials and product information to over 200 remote company sales people and more than 50 distributors across the globe.
Merit’s VP of Sales and Marketing approached Cannon with the concept of improving the collaboration and communication between their distributors, sales force, and the home office. Together they considered how Google Apps might allow their firm to share documents worldwide, update them instantaneously for the entire firm and provide these services at a very low cost. Merit settled on the Symplified solution, which offered a viable product that cost about $1 per user, per application, per month for authentication, single sign-on, role based access control, and audit across enterprise and SaaS-based applications.
A very reasonable one-time upfront payment and an annual bill for the subscription cost were funded as operational expenses – which made the justification to senior management that much easier. Cannon claims it took less than 100 Merit man-hours to evaluate, plan, implement, and deliver the solution. While their initial justification for adopting the solution was to decrease costs and improve productivity, Merit is considering adding functionality for customers to use in order to help drive additional revenue for the firm.
- Be driven by the business need, engage with the end-user and be ready to provide effective and efficient solutions as users look to adapt services outside the datacenter.
- Choose applications that are easy to implement, train personnel on and have a high degree of potential for success and payback.
- View identity and access management as a collaboration enabler and use it to improve end-user experience.
- Solutions that can be implemented with operational expense dollars vs. a capital expenditure are more easily justifiable to management.
- Measure productivity gains (time saved, etc.), and develop metrics to report to management.
- Establish policies that protect sensitive data from being inappropriately viewed or disseminated.
- Look for opportunities to leverage existing applications for other uses such as revenue generation.
- For some key uses, SaaS and Cloud-based applications can be cost effective, efficient, timely and secure.
Action Item: IT must embrace the idea that their internal users are able to “imagine” how their workflows can improve and will seek out innovative vendors who share their vision. IT needs to enable this process by creating opportunities to dialogue with their users, better understand the challenges their organizations face and bring ideas to the table for line of business executives.