It all sounds good, at least in theory: a switch to software-as-a-service (SaaS), an end to cumbersome on-site software implementation and an easier way to do business. Yet there’s a little more to the reality of cloud computing than that.
Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper told part of the story in a recent piece called “The final install,” which suggested that software-as-a-service had become more or less an inevitability.
“While small and mid-size businesses are driving the trend, close to 90% of larger enterprises in developed economies have already embraced the access-over-ownership philosophy across their organizations, from HR and sales to accounting and finance,” the article said, going on to quote a local CFO who put it even more bluntly: “SaaS is now the default, and on-premise software the exception.”
The Mixing and Matching
Contrast that sort of trend reporting with a piece of research from Harvard Business Review, which surveyed close to 350 executives from around the world, most of them from areas like finance rather than IT. They suggested that in many cases, organizations will have a mix of cloud-based tools as well as more traditional on-premise applications, and bridging the gap may be the biggest pain point.
“An important corollary to the need to integrate external cloud apps to internal on premises data is the fact that we now have a two-way challenge,” an article on Datamation that summarized the research said. “The rise of SaaS means that many organizations now have valuable data in the cloud that needs to be accessed by their on-premises systems.”
A good example might be things like enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that have run back-office types of activities for decades now. Though some cloud-based versions of those products are starting to surface, it’s not merely a case of shifting to the SaaS model.
The Hidden Value of Familiar UI
It’s also vital that those on the front lines — whether they are in finance, sales and marketing or even HR — feel they’re in a familiar environment:
“Almost three out of four survey respondents say having the same interface and experience are important. Providing the same type of user interface for cloud as well as internal apps may mean updating the internal on premise app. In many cases old enterprise apps have user interfaces from the Dark Ages and the juxtaposition with modern cloud app interfaces will drive users nuts. That may turn out to the be easier user experience to fix.”
On the other hand, there are some traditional software tools — Excel as a primary example — that might better be described as having “classic” interfaces that will complement SaaS products in ways that surprise everyone. One only needs to look to Office 365 to see how Excel is already bridging the gap between clould and on-premise software. For anyone involved in strategic planning, budgeting or other spreadsheet driven processes, Excel’s value in this regard should be obvious.
Ultimately, what’s important is not merely that moment of “the final install,” but what happens immediately afterwards.
And using a familiar interface, such as Excel, that feels natural to your employees, will drive user adoption through the roof while saving you time, money, and pain in the process.