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Pumpkin Spice Cloud Solutions

Pumpkin Spice Brake PadsIt doesn’t just happen. It seems to become a bigger and bigger thing over time. More feel like they are missing out. More try to join in. Many see an opportunity and try to ride the perceived popularity. And many get turned off because of personal taste or even just to buck the trend.

Such is the tangential arc of fads and trends. And, unfortunately, such is the way many small and midsize businesses approach the cloud. 

There is little doubt that Cloud Computing is a trend that is quickly evolving into a “real thing” with staying power. Many “experts” insist it is the “thing to do”. And while we do not disagree with these experts — we do believe that cloud is the best strategic and tactical direction for most (not all!) businesses — approaching cloud as a trend in which we need to participate is the wrong approach. SMBs that get caught up in the “trend” will miss the long term opportunities and will do more harm than good.

Small and Midsize Businesses are Different!

Much of the hype around “Digital Transformation”, machine learning, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence focuses on the enterprise. Yes, these capabilities will make it to SMBs and cloud will help accelerate the availability and adoption. SMBs, however, do not generally have the resources to run DevOps teams and rebuild or build custom applications.  SMBs rely much more heavily on SaaS and packaged solutions.

For SMBs the challenge is to pick the application or system that fills the need, and integrate that application or system into the overall ecosystem. Microsoft, Google, Salesforce.com, and others are creating ecosystems that foster integration within the ecosystem, but offer less support for solutions outside the multi-vendor boundaries they create.

A Cloud Forward Approach

Given this reality, a forward-looking approach is critical to your cloud success.  Your IT should clearly help you achieve your business goals and objectives. Your goals and objectives are forward looking, so too should be your IT and cloud decisions. For many SMBs, the first major decision is which cloud, and the initial focus is on productivity.  Do you go Office 365 and build your ecosystem around Microsoft 365 and Azure?  Do you deploy G Suite and look to deploy apps and systems Google Cloud Platform? Are you using Salesforce.com and will you limit yourself to solutions on the force.com platform? Are you looking at services or solutions that run on Amazon Web Services, and if so, how do those fit in?

Cloud Forward starts by asking the question “Which Cloud?”.  To answer, we map business goals and objectives into technology-driven objectives that, in turn, guide your decisions. Knowing that “cloud” is not simply “what we have running someplace else”, we actively assess other factors that should guide your decision — the structure of your information, your company structure, the culture your have or want, your existing applications and systems, industry-specific solutions, mobile and remote work, and more. We look ask uses about their preferences and what tools they feel make them most productive. And, we look at the near-term and long-term integration required to create a holistic solution.

Without a comprehensive assessment and understanding, your cloud solution will behave like a fad — a trend that fades.  By looking Cloud Forward, you can avoid the hype and fluff. You will focus on substance and will realize tangible results.


Contact us for more information or a complementary Cloud Advisor Session. For a customized Which Cloud Analysis and Recommendation, please complete our Which Cloud Survey. We are waiving the $895 fee through the end of 2017.


 

How you Work Influences Which Cloud is Right for You

How You Work ...Both G Suite (Google Apps) and Microsoft Office 365 provide cloud productivity tools and a foundation for a productive cloud ecosystem. Several factors influence which cloud is best for you. Having discussed culture clash and line of business apps in past posts, I want to focus on how you — and your team — work.

  • How much work is on-site? How much needs to be on-site?
  • How often is work done while mobile/remote? How critical is this work?
  • What is the balance between individual and team assignments?
  • Are teams a collection of individuals working on their own assignments or a collaborative group?
  • Are teams organized according to the organization hierarchy or by purpose, goal, or function?
  • Does your team need, or have, access to data from line of business systems?
  • How often is “copy/paste” or data re-entry a part of your workday?

These questions, and others, highlight that how we work as individuals and teams can vary greatly.

Organizations with higher numbers of mobile users, for example, tend to prefer ease of individual access to files over hierarchical organization.

Collaborative teams thrive when they have ready access to chat, video conferencing, co-editing, and social tools, whereas teams of individual contributors tend to rely on email and periodic meetings.

When work roles require access to data across line of business apps, integration is seen as more important than advanced features.

When deciding which cloud, consider how you and your team work now, as well as how you want to work in the future. Map these requirements to the cloud ecosystem you intend to build to ensure that you do not create roadblocks to your own success.


Complete our Which Cloud Survey and we will provide you with a custom Assessment and Recommendation report.  Normally a $895 service, it is yours free and without obligation through August 2017. Click here for more info and to start the survey.

Which Cloud? Let Your “Line of Business” Apps Be Your Guide

Should your CRM, ERP, or Warehousing system guide which email service you use? Yes, and here’s why …

Many SMBs think of Office 365 and G Suite (formerly Google Apps) as an email service or collaboration tools for emails, files, and chats. Both Office 365 and G Suite are, however, collaboration suites focused on individual and team productivity. Once in place, your productivity cloud becomes the cornerstone of your cloud services and your IT ecosystem.

In deciding which cloud, your line of business systems should guide your decision. Whether you choose Office 365 or G Suite, your productivity cloud will provide the platform that your line of business systems will use to present information and that you will use to view, share, and analyze data.

Born in the cloud, G Suite is built on a cloud-centric philosophy that promotes the use and integration of cloud (ie, SaaS) business apps.  G Suite does not include CRM, project/task management, data analysis apps, or other tools.  With G Suite the expectation is that you will use the capabilities of Google Cloud Platform, other Google services, or third party apps to meet these needs.  The G Suite model centers on your picking “best of breed” or “best fit” cloud-based solutions.

While Office 365 integrates with dozens, of third party, the Office 365 philosophy is to provide an integrated suite of solutions.  Delve, Power BI, Planner, Sway, and Teams are all examples of value-add solutions that Microsoft includes in the Office 365 suite to go beyond basic communication and collaboration.  With the addition of Dynamics 365, you have many line of business, data analysis, and planning functions covered without looking to third party apps.

Where Do Your Line of Business Apps Fit in the Decision Matrix?

If your Line of Business (LoB) systems run on premise with MS SQL Server Database, will run hybrid on-premise and in-cloud, or will continue to run in a Microsoft ecosystem, Office 365 comes with the ability to connect business intelligence, data analysis, reporting, and communications tools directly to your systems.

If you are running, or moving to SaaS-based systems for LoB solutions, your business intelligence, data analysis, and reporting solutions will likely be cloud solutions as well. G Suite provides and ecosystem for pulling these together in a manner.

Both Office 365 and G Suite integrate with on-premise and hybrid cloud solutions.  Both work with many third party solutions.  But Office 365 and G Suite each have their own strengths and philosophies. While you should not be limited by your current infrastructure, the nature of your current and planned LoB systems should, therefore, be an important factor when you decide which cloud is right for you.


For a better sense of which cloud is right for you, get a free assessment and consulting session by completing our Productivity Cloud Questionnaire. The survey takes 30-40 minutes to complete. We will respond with an analysis and recommendations report, and a free Cloud Advisor session to review our findings.

Culture Clash: Office 365 and G Suite

IT preferences can feel like religion. Mac vs PC. Linux vs Windows, iOS vs Android. The same holds true with cloud services. The historical presence of MS Office in our daily work lives makes moving to G Suite feel more like a radical shift than moving to Office 365. And while there is something to be said for familiarity, the way we’ve always done things is not necessary the best way to do them, or the way we should be doing them in the future.

Our work environments are changing from structure and hierarchy to collaboration and teams.

The productivity tools we pick should foster and support the way your team wants to work rather than forcing your team into structures and processes that can stifle innovation, initiative, and productivity.

Both Microsoft Office 365 and G Suite give you the tools to help your team collaborate and thrive. The approaches, however, differ.

The Microsoft Angle

For about two years, Microsoft has focused on “cloud first; mobile first” as its strategy and mantra. The evolution of Office 365 and Azure demonstrate Microsoft’s commitment and enthusiasm for the collaboration economy.

But Microsoft is about rapid evolution, not revolution. Microsoft understand that you have legacy systems and data — from MS Office documents to line-of-business systems — that you cannot replace all at once.  One of the strengths of Office 365 is the ability to integrate the service with existing servers, applications, and data. In doing so, new capabilities work not only with cloud-based systems and data, but with your existing IT systems and services.

Microsoft’s cloud-first strategy is clearly to expand the capability of Office 365, but let you access your on-premise systems and data. Case in point: Power BI.  Power BI is a user-driven data analytics tool in Office 365 that is not part of the MS Office suite.  Power BI lets you connect and include data from Excel, SQL Server, Dynamics, and hundreds of other sources — on premise and in the cloud.

The Google Angle

Google has always been cloud-first — some might say cloud-only — in its strategy.  Yes, G Suite integrates with your local Windows network and with your desktop MS Office suite. But the real power of G Suite is the innate design around collaboration and peer connectivity. Every app — and nearly every feature — supports real time collaboration.  The apps within G Suite are designed to be efficient and “lighter weight” than other productivity suites, focusing on the functionality used by 80-90% of users and relying on third party solutions for the rest.

G Suite assumes, if not expects, you to use third party applications and solutions to build out your capabilities. Google focuses on integration with third parties as much, if not more, than adding major apps and functionality to G Suite. Need a CRM system? Take your pick from dozens of solutions ranging from major players like Salesforce.com and Prosperworks to niche and vertical market solutions like Bullhorn. Need a task management solution? Hive, Smartsheets, and many others are ripe for the picking.

Google’s cloud strategy is clearly to provide a core productivity platform and to empower organizations to pick “best fit” and “best of breed” cloud (SaaS) solutions to fill broader needs and provide line of business functionality.

Culture Clash

Even with a Cloud-First strategy, Microsoft focuses on including and providing a broad range of apps and solution within the Windows/Office365/Azure ecosystem. Yes, Microsoft fosters relationships and integrates with other cloud solutions and apps. Microsoft also integrates with legacy, on-premise systems. Google’s culture is more “all in cloud”. Yes, you can integrate MS Office.  Yes, you can connect to on-premise systems. But your productivity suite will work best when you integrate with third party SaaS solutions.

Which solution — Office 365 and G Suite — is right for you depends on where you are and where you want to go as an organization. The decision is as much about culture, line of business apps, mobility, and other factors as it is about Outlook vs Gmail.  When deciding which cloud, look forward and measure your decision against goals, objectives, and the long term strategy for your business as well as your IT.

 


For more discussion of factors to consider when deciding which cloud is best for your business, check out our recent eBook, Picking Your Productivity Cloud.

Picking the Right Productivity Cloud: Look Beyond Familiarity and Cost

News from Cumulus GlobalWestborough, MA — It is no longer a matter of “if”, but “when” small and midsize businesses will move to the cloud. For most SMBs, the first decision they make will be on which productivity cloud to use– MS Office 365 or Google G Suite. As noted in Cumulus Global’s most recent eBook, Picking Your Productivity Cloud, SMBs are wise to consider more than familiarity and cost when making this decision.

“SMBs that rely on inertia and simply go with the cloud ecosystem that is most familiar often find themselves hitting roadblocks or underutilizing the service over time,” note Cumulus Global CEO Allen Falcon. “Picking the right cloud for email and productivity tools becomes the foundation of your cloud ecosystem. A broader perspective is needed.”

Picking Your Productivity Cloud looks at six critical factors to consider when choosing between Microsoft Office 365 and Google G Suite.  Beyond cost, the eBook discusses the impact of other IT systems and applications, company culture, and business goals. The ebook is available for free in our Resource Center Library.