Should your printing company adopt a ‘Cloud Now’ approach to your IT systems?
For the last few years, some companies have been adopting a ‘Cloud First’ strategy when investing in new IT systems, i.e. the first requirement is that it’s ‘Cloud’ (what is meant by ‘Cloud’ is another conversation for another time, it’s not as straightforward as you might think). But as the pandemic hit and many people started working from home, IT departments had to rapidly make their company’s essential software applications available to a remote workforce.
While it was definitely do-able to do this for small and niche projects (we did it for our phone system, for example, and we’ve seen many customers move to Xero Accounts), it really wasn’t an option for enterprises or for highly configured and ingrained line-of-business systems. And let’s not forget that most companies are perfectly happy with the software applications they have and don’t want to move to another provider.
So if you want to stick with your existing provider or don’t have time to go to market for an alternative, what do you do?
Well actually the answer is pretty simple - you adopt a ‘Cloud Now’ approach. Many of these on-premise systems are already running on virtual infrastructure and this is relatively easy to migrate to the cloud. Additional services are needed (virtual networks, VPNs, RDS Servers etc) but it’s essentially a virtual ‘lift and shift’ onto IAAS (Infrastructure as a Service) platforms such as...
- Amazon Web Services (AWS).
So why hasn’t this approach been used sooner?
Well any major technological change needs a trigger; there has to be a new need that the technology fulfils, and up until the pandemic this was only happening in companies with specific needs, as and when they changed systems (i.e. Cloud First).
Plus, like any investment, a technological change has to deliver a return, and having your infrastructure in the cloud rather than on-premise isn’t a straightforward calculation, at least purely on a cost basis. On-premise involves a big capex but with assets that can be used long after they have been depreciated to zero. Cloud is very flexible and offers a lower opex, but is every month, forever.
Should you adopt a Cloud Now or Cloud First approach?
The important thing to remember is that a shift to cloud for existing solutions (Cloud Now) or a shift to cloud for new investments (Cloud First) isn’t a tactical decision - it’s a strategic one, and as such the decision isn’t only about remote access. If it’s just remote access you’re after, then there are many enabling technologies about that are available to on-premise systems, both at the low end of the market with tools like TeamViewer, and at the enterprise level with applications such as Citrix XenApp – and everything in between.
So when would you consider a Cloud First approach and when should you consider a Cloud Now approach?
The simple answer to this, in our opinion, is that a Cloud First approach should be considered when you’re unhappy with your current system’s functionality and want to move providers anyway, and consider a Cloud Now approach if you’re not. There’s nothing wrong with exploring both options, but as always, you should start any software buying process with a list of your company’s challenges and needs – not a list of things you expect the software to do. So your list of software needs should refrain from saying things like ‘Needs to be cloud’ and stick to actual challenge that need solving e.g. ‘Need reliable remote access for all employees’.
Here’s a great quote from Jennifer Matt from What They Think that perfectly sums up the need for this approach:
The most important suggestion here is to make a list of business challenges (not prescribed solutions, not preconceived ideas about “how” things should be solved). One of the key aspects of change management is to detach from the “how” challenges are solved so that you can be open to alternative solutions. Think about what you’re doing if you allow your team to fill a spreadsheet out with “how” they want all the problems solved. You are unknowingly setting the expectation that the challenges will be solved in a specific way and the vendors will affirm that because they will read it as “yes, we solve that problem—not exactly how they described it but we solve it so we can check that box and back up our answer.” This will come back to burn you later (bad).”
The Print Software Evaluation Process, What They Think, June 2020