Insights

At the Horizon – Does Cloud meet OnPremise?

WHAT WE THINK...


At the Horizon – Does Cloud meet OnPremise?

On one of my long flights, I had ample time to reflect on our experiences working with customers on terra firma (the on-premise world of Siebel) and in the cloud (primarily, Salesforce). I was struck by how similar these applications have become.

We have had Salesforce as our internal CRM for over five years and I have always marvelled on how easy it has been to implement. Yes, it required no programming. We were able to configure it within a couple of hours and our team was fully functional – no training necessary. For the CRM specialists that we are, this was indeed too good to be true!

Platform as a Service or On-premise in the Cloud?

Simplicity and ease of implementation has been the engine behind Salesforce's rapid adoption across many customers. Salesforce has since released a lot of powerful features such as Apex programming, Visualforce, Salesforce1, the Force.com ecosystem, etc., to evolve from an SFA application to an enterprise-level front office platform in the cloud. These features have enabled customers to write custom scripts, create custom objects, add custom fields, and design custom applications, workflows and processes – something commonplace in the on-premise world.

The flexibility offered by these features in on-premise applications is what got many implementations into trouble, and its a bit like the 'iceberg principle' for cloud apps - its the 90% you can't see that's gonna hurt you !

Insights from the Field

Indeed we see customers with cloud-based CRM apps facing challenges similar to those seen in the on-premise world.

I was talking to the Director of Sales Processes of a customer regarding initiatives they have underway. She mentioned “Reducing Sales Drag” as their main initiative for the year. I asked her to elaborate upon what ‘sales drag” meant to them. She listed user adoption, complex user interface, too many approvals, and non-standardized rules as issues they are trying to address. My jaw dropped open. These are things we normally hear from customers who have had on-premise apps such as Siebel.

I was visiting with another client a few weeks ago. Our discussions touched upon various topics, one of which was expanding the footprint of salesforce.com across their organization. The Director of IT was concerned that a wider roll out of Salesforce would be a non-trivial task. One of their divisions had already used 438 fields on the Customer object! A wider roll out would hit up against the limit of 500 fields per object they had in Salesforce.

The Takeaways

In each of the above cases, after some further due diligence we uncovered the root causes for these problems. These are lessons many on-premise customers have learnt, albeit too late, and are equally applicable in the cloud world.

  • Process Design: Because it is on the cloud doesn't mean that process design can be ignored. Invest in designing the right processes before embarking on the implementation.
  • Release Hygiene: Just because it is easy to add a new field, implement an Apex script, and quickly release it to production, doesn't mean you should. One needs to make sure the changes are in line with the process design that has been agreed upon for the application.
  • Coding Discipline: Cloud is no more about No Software. Apex is the lingua franca across Salesforce. One needs to follow the software development best practices in order to remove performance and maintainability issues.

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