How bulletproof is your cloud? Part 2: Compatibility

In part 1 of this series, we looked at how to find a winning cloud provider with the right customer-centric culture – a provider that understands your success is the key to its success. Now we’re setting our sights on compatibility with your business operations and goals.

The concept of data-driven decision-making goes something like this: The more supporting data you have, the greater confidence you can have in your decisions. There’s no way to gather all the data you need, so what you don’t know, you have to assume to the best of your abilities.

Assumption is a balancing act, a reality of doing business and, to a degree, a quantifiable/justifiable risk behavior. After all, you weigh estimation, approximation and assumption against your own business model, processes and financial requirements every day.

So, what does this have to do with the cloud?

When you sign up with a cloud services provider – public, private or otherwise – you become a consumer of some part of the cloud services spectrum, and you’ve got company … lots of it.

Just as you take calculated risks every day, your cloud provider is making assumptions about YOU as a customer and taking risks on your behalf – sometimes with little first-hand knowledge of how your business operates. This isn’t as scary as it seems, as long as you understand what drives your provider.

Compatibility Means Working Together

There’s an old adage for software developers that goes something like this: if you took everyone’s suggestions and put them in the product, you would end up with an unusable, unsupportable behemoth. The remedy is, of course, to focus on selected features and functions that cater to the consumer majority.

It’s safe to assume your cloud services provider is doing this very thing. If you, as a product consumer, let the provided cloud-based tools drive your processes, you may never exit the warm and cozy confines of this “safe” majority … and you can stop reading now.

If, on the other hand, you like to stretch the limits of the tools you use, you may someday find yourself pulled into the consumer minority – also referred to as the “cutting edge”. At this point, the tools, software, services or platform you consume may no longer be an airtight fit for your requirements, and the long-term remedies (customization or additional tools) may be costly.

Riding the cutting edge with your processes can also be rewarding, provided you understand this: The further from center you fall, the more you might find your cloud services provider’s assumptions about you are incorrect. That’s why it’s so important to find the right provider with the right platform and a culture that lends a listening ear.

The bottom line: Know your business processes and understand the only way to get 100 percent of what you want is to build the tools that drive them yourself OR to let the tools drive your business.

Since virtually everyone lives somewhere in the middle – ask yourself which way you trend. Keeping this in mind gives you a better shot at maintaining a harmonious relationship with the cloud services you consume.

My advice: Find the stellar culture first! Without it, you’re safer letting features drive your processes. Shoot for a robust cloud platform out of the gates that delivers somewhere in the 90+ percent range of what you want. Finally, be sure to partner with your cloud provider by keeping a solid feedback loop going.

With the right provider – one that is willing to listen – you might even be able to turn your “cutting edge” needs into the next round of standard features. The way forward is arm-in-arm, not nose-to-nose.

In part 3, we’ll take a look at how to find stability in a sea of change.

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