The One Big Mistake Companies Make When Selecting Cloud Providers

Help SignHere’s the scenario: you’re reviewing cloud providers—asking all of the tough questions, complete with exhaustive discussions on security, agility and price. You sign on the dotted line, deploy and feel pretty good about your choices. A few months later, reality strikes. You forgot to ask about the one vital thing that could transform your cloud engagements into virtual IT nightmares.

That thing is support.

“In today’s world, both IT and the business have a clearly understood escalation process when something goes wrong. There’s a help desk, level two, level three and expectations around each contact point, ” explained Rick Sizemore, director of the cloud computing practice at Alsbridge. “In this new world of cloud, the critical question becomes, ‘who supports the end user and who supports IT?’  If I source my email to a third-party provider, how much end user support will they supply, if any, and if not, where does the IT organization build the bridge to reach into support from the provider?”

According to Sizemore, this huge oversight could, unremedied, eradicate the benefits of cloud.

“Security, cost and agility do not matter if, when a problem inevitably occurs, there is confusion, delay and perception of failure because IT deployed cloud without building a service delivery structure to enable the new cloud model,” Sizemore said.

So, what should companies do instead?

Ask the Right Questions and Get the Right People Involved Upfront

First, involve the right stakeholders and ask the right questions before you commit, no matter how fast you’re tempted to move.

“It’s important to have a team within your service desk take a look at all of the providers to realistically evaluate support options,” explained Patricia Wilkey, director of enterprise cloud services for HP Enterprise Services. “Identify if the provider has an application connection point that will integrate with your existing service desk, or if your only option is the manual, ‘swivel chair’ approach to managing those support issues.”

According to Wilkey, it’s also imperative to find out exactly what each cloud provider’s support involves and which communication channels are used for that support.

“I think a lot of companies forget that, when they work with multiple niche cloud providers,  they’re not going to get the hand-holding they do in the traditional model,” Wilkey said. “Some providers only offer email support for level one and two—and sometimes level three. Find out specifically how they provide access: email, a ticketing system or if you’ll actually speak to a real human being.”

If the cloud provider will handle the first call, Wilkey recommends stepping into their processes further to identify exactly what is triaged in that call. In other words, take the time to understand what that provider’s interpretation of ‘level one’ actually is.

Finally, there’s the knowledge management aspect. What will the provider supply and how can you get this information into your knowledge center, so your support group is equipped to resolve issues—or at least ask the right questions to do so?

“You have to standardize the cloud engagement process, with strict rules, particularly if you have business units making any kind of cloud purchases,” Wilkey said.  “Procurement has to add the right questions to trigger the necessary support detail and should review this information before a decision is made.”

Revamping Your Own Structure to Support What’s to Come

Of course, just knowing what you’re getting up front is only the beginning. Companies also have to do a little soul-searching, and revamp their own internal structures to prep for a future where, when it comes to cloud provider, “more is better.”

“Companies have to modify their traditional Project Management Offices (PMOs) and Vendor Management Offices (VMOs) to develop more architect and business analyst skillsets to help orchestrate between the various towers. For example, managing application development and infrastructure between multiple, potentially competing providers,” Sizemore of Alsbridge said. “Today, that may be three or five large suppliers. But in the future, it will be 30, 50 or more. Nearly every capability aspect that is either a commodity or a niche could be provided by a different provider. ”

According to Sizemore, this reality is going to force a change in the way companies select a solution by defining the support processes prior to the actual selection.

“Yes, we should be doing this today, but  in most cases with cloud solutions, the ‘widget’ is chosen because it fills a need. It’s a decision that’s arrived at quickly and implemented quickly, but with the current process, is not without pain when support issues roll around,” Sizemore said.  “Looking at the marketplace, the future is in the cloud, whether it’s tomorrow or five years from now.  Companies have to position for this inevitable change.”

But, wait a minute. Won’t these staffed up PMO/VMO organizations slow the progress, and slow the gazelle-like ramp-up/ramp-down agility that is the very essence of cloud computing?

“There’s definitely a long-term ability to achieve security, cost savings and agility,” Sizemore said. “The delivery towers will shrink significantly in the absolute number of delivery personnel. But, the retained organization will have a more profoundly ingrained technical and business sense of their service identities.”

Essentially, they will be working more closely on orchestrating the deep technical aspects of the solution, as well as the operational delivery logistics with the PMO/VMO groups that having a vast provider community will require.

Our experts have weighed in. Now, we’d like you to join the conversation.  What processes or organization changes has your company put into place to manage service delivery in this new world of cloud?

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