Cloud projects are a nearly perfect fit for agile project development techniques. Even if your finance guys insist upon fixed price and fixed schedule, the tendency in the Cloud is iterative development and scrum teams.
Stories by David Taber
Year after year, the cost of disk space has plummeted. Since you can pick up a terabyte for $50, it's often seemed a false economy to be careful with storage.
Cloud consultants aren't that much different from the consulting and contracting firms that IT has used over the years. But the economics of cloud consulting are a whole bunch different from what the Big 5 firms were doing with SAP and Siebel. Thanks to the price points of cloud solutions (typically, a monthly fee) and the expectation of Web open systems (all I do is point and click, right?), behemoth consulting gigs are few and far between.
CRM systems offer workflows, approval processes, and other business process enforcement features. But it's not always clear which feature you should use, and overly strict enforcement mechanisms cause big user satisfaction problems.
Fixing your CRM system and the sales and marketing organization will take some real time, and should be done in stages. Further, in both CRM and sales there's a serious talent shortage. Sure, there are people on the street -- but just try to find a truly great salesperson or SFDC wizard in New York or San Francisco. So you should grab the employees and consultants whenever you can find them, and expect to fix the software and organizational issues in parallel.
It's axiomatic that in software of any complexity, the ecosystem of plug-in products, tools, compatible APIs, and developer community can become really important. In certain software product categories, the importance of the ecosystem can swamp any feature advantage that an upstart product may have, leading to what economists call a natural monopoly.
As I've written previously, CRM systems are inherently the most political of Enterprise systems. Users' bonuses and even their career paths may be riding on the data values in the CRM system. Small errors in the data can mean big problems if leads are getting lost or sales reps can't see relevant information about their customers and prospects.
Most cloud applications have development (or at least scripting) capabilities that allow for deep customization plus some level of database access and computational capabilities. But even the best of the cloud applications must put in limiters for their platform/development environments: an app isn't a general purpose run-time or generic object container. For example, the development language must be made safe for a multi-tenant deployment, and must be well-behaved so that user code can't take down the virtual machine, database, or overall application. Further, some kinds of language constructs must be limited to prevent resource hogging and deadlocks. (Indeed, if you think about the billion lines of user code that Salesforce.com has running in their cloud, keeping quick responsiveness and good uptime stats is a non-trivial task.)
In the good old days that weren't so good, we suffered from DLL hell: the need to find and certify libraries that we didn't write but did depend on. Cloud computing presents an analogous challenge with services we want to use, but don't really control. You might not see it the short run, but if you plan to have clouds applications operational over years, this can present a very real issue.
Somebody once said that cloud apps are just like enterprise software, only more so. OK, nobody ever said that. Actually, most everyone says they're much easier and faster than traditional software projects. And done right, cloud projects can be. Because done right, they are smaller, simpler, and more separable than tightly-coupled software projects were.
The CEO has called and asked for some training on the CRM system. A great opportunity...but there are a hundred things you could train him on. Where do you start, and where do you place your bets?
In the early days of CRM, it was simple: people were people and companies were companies. Adding a new person to the CRM database was pretty unambiguous, whether they came in through direct entry or via integration across the clouds.
Over the course of too many years, I've said that you can't make a user interface that's too easy for users. But cloud-based software vendors have essentially done just that. System setup is now deceptively simple, and too many sales pitches tell stories of how users can set up a cloud-based system themselves.
Last week, we explored the 7 basics of cloud computing vendor security, including identity, authentication, encryption, ILP/DLP and audit trails. Now here comes the deep dive: access control.
CRM systems are where the richest data about customer relationships is supposed to live, and most CRM systems provide a report-writing system as well as dozens of canned reports.
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