How to get best value from your shiny new cloud deployments

To optimize value, CIOs need to pursue consultative relationships from their IT suppliers
Jean de Villiers and Tim Eclair-Heath

In IT, the point of sale and the go-live are just the start. Every CIO must recognize that business-technology success is at least as much about expansion and what happens after the excitement of signing on the dotted line of the contract agreement and the software activation button is “pressed.”

That success, though, begins with moving fast. In SaaS, it is smart to start with a minimal viable product and build from there. You do not want to take 18 months to deploy, or you will have squandered that year-and-a-half of subscription value. The mantra for SaaS success is to show benefits quickly then iterate, leaning on your technology partner to discover and develop best practices that deliver demonstrable value.

Technology is no silver bullet, but it should be a great enabler for core processes. When moving critical apps and workloads to the Cloud, CIOs and their partners need to re-examine core functions such as Finance and HR, audit the way projects are currently run, and then derive optimal use from the tech platform by automating at every turn. That automation may come from the platform itself or it may come from a complementary plug-in app. For example, Excel spreadsheets hitting a ceiling. In that situation consider how a Financial Planning app can bring order and global scalability.

Handing over

The key should always be to push away from manual efforts with the aim of better serving stakeholders, increasing competitiveness, extracting costs and liberating people from rote tasks and chores, so they can be funnelled into new roles that add more value.

Of course, even the very best technology can’t mend a broken process and the old rule of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ applies. But fix those flawed workflows and the technology platform becomes a big part of success, helping you to get on a par with peers and surpass them. Best practice processes based on thousands of case studies are built into apps, so use them.

The role of the vendor is more than just being a transactional provider of tools. Many ERP vendors will ask, ‘What do you want to do?’ but the best will recommend a path based on best practices they have garnered via a panoramic tour of your peers and rivals.

Many customers think they have unique issues, but the truth is that many customers face similar conundrums. If you have a technical challenge or spy an opportunity, we have probably seen it before. That means we can guide you on possible beartraps and steer you to the best course of action.

The vendor as consultant

Make sure your vendor doesn’t just throw technology over the wall then disappear until it’s time for renewals to be signed. The best vendors are true partners and should challenge you in a positive way. They should know all about ways to drive customer success, the processes and tips and tricks that work… and those that don’t.

You may not be able to afford one of the big four consultancies, but you can use Cloud providers as consultants. Experts and Customer Success Managers should be able to point you to where you can remove complex customizations that can block change, replacing them with out-of-the-box alternatives. They should show you how to create a culture of super-users and knowledge sharing and advise on ways to get more value out of what you have already bought. And, moreover, they should help you to re-engineer business processes that are not up to the job.

This is not altruism. All vendors want to fight churn and encourage a viral ‘land and expand’ phenomenon. To do that they should make the effort to understand your ultimate desired business outcomes and mould their conversations around those, rather than just pushing new features.

All too often, Customer Success Managers are overpaid, glorified incident managers. That is a waste of their talent so get the most out of them and build a two-way conversation where they listen, and you tap valuable knowledge. Do it early and keep doing it.

For years or even decades, the software sector has got away with exploitative practices. Those won’t work in a Cloud world where it is easier than ever to swap out suppliers. Working together to land and expand your new Cloud is a win-win for both sides.

About Jean de Villiers, Chief Customer Officer, Unit4

Jean de Villiers is responsible for Professional Services, Product Support, University4U/Community4U - the knowledge centers for employees, partners and customers - and Customer Success, all of which covers the entire end-to-end customer journey. With a 27-year career spent in technology, management consulting, managed services and professional services, de Villiers joined Unit4 from global enterprise software company, BMC, where he led the Global Professional Services business, covering Consulting, Managed Services and Education. Prior to his 11-year tenure at BMC, de Villers worked for a number of organizations ranging from Value Added Resellers, such as Planwell Technologies, to large Managed Services Providers, such as PinkRoccade - latterly Getronics.

About Tim Eclair-Heath, VP of Success Engineering, Unit4

Tim Eclair-Heath, VP of Success Engineering for Unit4 is an experienced Customer Success leader with a passion for developing customer centric products which enable ongoing and expansive customer value. With a background in project, customer success and global operations management across, Retail, Supply Chain, IT Service Management and Financial industries Tim uses this experience to build high performing, cross discipline teams to build the next generation of services offerings to meet the needs of our customers fast paced, continually evolving business strategies.

About Unit4

Unit4's next-generation enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions power many of the world's mid-market organizations, bringing together the capabilities of Financials, Procurement, Project Management, HR, and FP&A to share real-time information, and deliver greater insights to help organizations become more effective. By combining our mid-market expertise with a relentless focus on people, we've built flexible solutions to meet customers' unique and changing needs. Unit4 serves more than 5,100 customers globally across a number of sectors including professional services, nonprofit and public sector, with customers including Migros Aare, Southampton City Council, Metro Vancouver, Durham Catholic District School Board, Buro Happold, Peab, North Sea Port Netherlands, Save the Children International, Global Green Growth Institute and Oxfam America. For further information visit www.unit4.com.

For more information, please visit https://www.unit4.com/, follow us on Twitter @Unit4global,

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Written by
June 13, 2024
Written by
Jean de Villiers and Tim Eclair-Heath