How to Adopt a Strategic Approach to Clouds

Only a few years ago, business and IT executives openly questioned whether their organizations should rely on cloud computing. There were questions about vendor reliability, quality of service and, perhaps most importantly, security.

Now, thanks to rapid and radical advances in cloud technology, the question is no longer whether to tap various managed services, but how, when and where to deploy them. According to various industry studies, the cloud adoption rate at medium and large enterprises now hovers in the upper 90 percent range.

To be sure, cloud computing is entering a new phase. “We have witnessed an evolution over the last couple of years,” says Rohit Antao, a principal at PwC Consulting. “Cloud providers have matured, and executives must now focus on developing a strategy for adopting, managing and combining cloud services—and tying everything into conventional infrastructure.”

In addition, employee and customer expectations have changed. “As a result of the ongoing consumerization of IT, people have fundamentally different expectations about what technology can do for them,” he adds.

Building this new technology framework is a major challenge. As technologies and systems converge—and line-of-business managers procure managed services—there’s a need to connect data, provide security and address cost-of-ownership issues.

While clouds offer remarkable convenience, improved agility and a high level of flexibility, a disjointed and haphazard approach can lead to disappointing results. Without a clear strategy and the right tools, “It’s easy to wind up using individual cloud services in an ad hoc way and lose out from the synergy of integrated systems,” points out Agatha Poon, research manager at 451 Research.

Focus on Agility

Navigating this highly disruptive environment is difficult. Poorly integrated and disconnected systems frequently result in business silos and data gaps. What’s more, shadow IT and unapproved applications may mean that different departments and functions wind up working in entirely different ways, introducing a level of friction that undermines workflows and processes.

The cloud ratchets up the stakes even more. “The goal is to use clouds to transform IT service delivery, improve business operations, and deliver new services to customers and employees,” PwC’s Antao observes. “It ultimately circles back to the whole notion of building a successful digital business.”

That’s a concept that resonates with NexRep, a firm that operates virtual contact centers for businesses and non-profits. Using Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technology from Five9, the firm has achieved a level of agility, flexibility and integration that would have been impossible only a few years ago.

For instance, when nonprofit Stand Up to Cancer held its fourth annual telethon last September, it required more than 500 agents to handle incoming calls over a four-hour span. Equally important: The telethon required technology systems and trained agents in place within a four-week span.

As a result, NexRep pinged its agents, checked their availability, handled scheduling, established call routing rules, managed seat licensing and then ran several tests to ensure that systems worked correctly. When the agents logged in and the calls streamed in, the cloud-based environment worked flawlessly. In the end, Stand Up to Cancer—which featured celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Mike Myers, Ben Stiller and Katie Couric—raised $109 million.

“With many companies moving more of their business to the cloud, the advantages of cloud computing have become clear,” says NexRep CEO Teddy Liaw. They include “lower capital expenses, access to the latest technology innovations, fast implementations, improved reliability and true business agility.”