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The very concept of moving software to and running your services from the ‘cloud’ can give an impression that there is a distance or remoteness about it. Perhaps this is also perpetuated by some global mass-market providers relying on high volume and simple generic features.

In many cases the situation is quite the reverse or should be with cloud providers now focussing more on the end-user and building long-lasting relationships. After all this is the measure of success for cloud companies to retain satisfied customers for a long period of time.

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Redefining service as part of software delivery
Somehow the process of getting software out of a box, putting a disk into a drive and waiting for up to an hour while it installs while responding to various questions just seems so last century. Did we feel closer to the vendors that produced the software or did we even have contact with them except waiting on the phone to their help desk?

Does the cloud offer the chance of an altogether different experience and relationship with vendors even for SMEs and the end user? I believe it does or at least it should be an important aspect in deciding which vendor to work with. After all, in many cases for core business functions a trusted partner is a desirable outcome. Especially as it is a relationship that typically will last for years.

Addressing specific company needs – aligning objectives
As a business owner or key decision-maker you are looking for your particular needs to be addressed and for any particular vendor to take time to understand them. This is especially true where you are operating in a specialist field. Furthermore, it is invariably not only a question of what you need but how it can fit in with what you have. In other words with your existing IT systems or processes.

Here are a few steps to help you get a better understanding of your cloud provider.

It’s not just a demo, it is about your needs:

This is where the product demo is about more than just seeing what a system can do and being wowed by some of the latest features.

  • Giving the vendor an opportunity to understand your situation and if the software can give you value in the long term.
  • It is also about understanding how you can get there with how the software would integrate within your current environment perhaps by sharing information with other systems.
  • Understanding the people behind the vendor and the goals that the company has as well as their ambitions for the product development and their position in the market.
  • What the ongoing relationship is going to look like. Will you have a dedicated account manager and what about support queries or training needs?

When you receive the proposal for you to start all of this should be clear not just for the initial set-up but also further down the line as you expand or wish to take on more functions.

Dipping the toe in the water – the trial or test Project
Most likely you will have a chance to try out the software. This period is essential to get a feel for the solution and how easily it will be for regular users and administrators or managers to pick up (to assess your training needs). It also gives an opportunity to gather more information that wasn’t asked at the demo and to get a feel for the support you may get or need.

A test project may also be a good way to really try out the system without over committing providing you have narrowed down the options to one or two providers and the test can be done without needing to be integrated with existing systems.

Building a relationship with the business users – the key to success
With cloud computing there is a shift in focus in software from the technical aspects to the user needs and the overall user experience.

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The economies of scale of dealing with one version of the software means that the cloud vendor can take away the pressure on the IT function constantly upgrading software, development and testing. They can also provide more focus on customer facing activities.

With that focus comes the opportunity to move forward towards addressing the customer needs not only now but into the future. Perhaps it is time to find a suitable cloud partner?

About the Author – Colin Payne
Colin manages the UK operation for Webforum which includes working closely with current and future customers in understanding their needs, their own particular IT set up and those within different industry sectors. Colin’s background includes Business Analysis, System Architecture and project management. See Colin’s profile in LinkedIn

About Webforum Professional
Webforum is a complete web-based service for all types of projects and collaboration. The system provides users with everything that supports a project available in one place: documents, files, project plans, discussions, time sheets, risks, reports etc. There are also industry specific features such as 2D/3D model viewers, Metadata and extended security available.

Webforum works closely with their customers to ensure that their needs are understood and the system is configured around their specific business. Webforum also has long-standing relationships with customers in a range of industries from Engineering, Construction and Infrastructure to IT, Public Sector and Banking. For more information see our Website

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