Race to the Cloud

So Cloud is real and here to stay. It is great that there are solutions ready to go and available on-demand. In addition these solutions are really easy to setup. They don’t scale down necessarily but still I buy it, you can add and remove the resources based on your requirement. Let’s not talk about PAAS or IAAS for a second. Let’s focus on SAAS. What is the driving force that is pushing companies like MSFT to invest so much in SAAS? 80% of their resources are working on Cloud related applications so they have decided in which direction they are heading. As always consulting companies are following suit, and my company is no different. However a completely different phenomena is driving the consumer space. Everyone has a mobile device and Native apps are predominantly considered a lot more Cooler compared to web apps. Like everyone else I want an app that serves my needs and runs best on my device. I want something that solves my problem. Yes if that application solves other problems as well I understand that but it has to solve my problem in a cool way to be part of my application pool on my device. One tends to think that there is no difference between applications on cloud and application in mobile space as they are both built from the perspective that many users have the same requirement. So isn’t it the same thing? Does it not imply that Cloud would encourage us to build applications for a large audience with similar needs and same happened with the applications in App Stores? Unfortunately not in the corporate sector.

In industry the solutions that are being built on the cloud are generic. They solve problems. If they don’t solve a certain problem then features pertinent to that business area are added and the same product is sold with a different spin. SalesForce, Oracle and Microsoft add features to their CRM to make sure they don’t lose out on a business opportunity in a particular industry vertical. I am sure it holds true for other applications in the corporate sector. Huge investment on Cloud infrastructure by Corporate giants drives the marketing and sales initiative for Cloud version of the solution and as a result clients are racing to the cloud. CIOs want to win this race. They want to be the flag bearer for such an innovative initiative. However there is no innovation associated with Cloud. There is no “My Problem” being solved on the Cloud. Applications on the cloud solve a stated problem as they exist on the Cloud and Consultants map that existing cloud solutions to their business problem to the best of their abilities. That is the best that one can get out of Cloud. There is no “My Solution” anymore. There is a race between vendors. If SalesForce has 100 features then Microsoft wants 101 to convince their Clients that their version is better.  Isn’t it drastically different from what is happening in App Stores? App Stores are innovation centers. They are beyond feature set and focusing on usability and user experience. This is not happening in the Corporate sector and the way it is going we are moving away from it. The gap between consumer space and corporate space is widening. Talk to a business user or a marketer who deal with technical resources and they will tell you that their personal IT rocks but corporate IT sucks.

I was excited about Cloud because I thought of it as an App Store. I want to think of Cloud as a tool box that users as well as corporate users would leverage to solve their problems. However unfortunately corporate users are owned by corporations and they can never be independent. If this race to Cloud continues then all we would have is companies with data on Cloud accessed through browsers. What purpose does it serve? Does it make the life of my employees better? Does it make them more productive? No it certainly does not. Instead of focusing on solving business user problem we are focusing on IT. Yes IT, because Cloud is all about not having to support your applications, not having to sign M&S contracts, not having Change Requests as all of a sudden the World has converged and if I have a problem then someone else must have had the same problem. So Cloud is IT saving not IT innovation. Cloud investment must force the solution providers to innovate. C-Level executives cannot just invest in Cloud because MSFT, Oracle or SalesForce told them so. They have to ask questions that would help the market evolve.

As the gap between consumer space and corporate space widens it presents an opportunity to bridge this gap. Consulting companies should focus not only on solving the business problems but also on the user experience and usability. Innovative Business solutions with easy to use interfaces that solve a business problem should drive the business, not the shelved solution on Cloud. We want to build applications for corporations to solve their problems that would make the life of corporate users as easy as mine sitting at home and planning my vacations in Bahamas using amazing Apps on iPad. Till then please don’t try to win this race to Cloud as it would take you no where.

Email Management Solution CRM 2011 Online

I wrote an article on Email Preview Pane. We have done some enhancement to make that tool into an Email Management Solution for MS Dynamics CRM 2o11 online. This video shows the details of our Email Management Solution.

Data Migration from CRM 4.0 to MS Dynamics CRM 2011 online

This is my second post for data migration from CRM 4.0 to CRM 2011. I think i mentioned in the last webcast that was shared as part of my post that we use our integration framework at the backend of our migration utility which allows us to take data from disparate solutions and feed it to MS Dynamics CRM 2011 on-premises and online. Although this webcast and the last one focused on migration from CRM 4.0 to CRM 2011 but the migration utility can be used for Goldmine and SalesForce as well. We are targeting CRM 4.0 to CRM 2011 just based on the demand and I will be preparing the next webcast for Goldmine. Anyways in this webcast we take data from CRM 4.0 to CRM 2011 online.

I think this webcast addresses the core issue for many who were just stuck with CRM 4.0 because they wanted to migrate to CRM 2011 online and the migration was not obvious. I would like to mention here that no matter what you have on your CRM 4.0 on-premises version you should be able to transition to Cloud provided you are working with intelligent consultants. There is always a work-around for some restrictions with the online solutions and Solution Experts should be able to share the solution with all the pros and cons.

The migration utility works perfectly for basic sales entities. We are still looking into reports to some how find a way to automate report migration from CRM 4.0 to CRM 2011 online but as it is reports require lots of manual work as one needs to change each report.

Enjoy this video and contact me if you have any questions. Hang in there for more videos on data migration from different solutions to CRM 2011 online.

Understanding Cloud computing

I have read a few books and heard at-least a dozen talks comparing Cloud Computing with Electricity. The idea that businesses in IT industry would change drastically with Cloud computing has its merits. However comparing the evolution of electricity with cloud computing is stretching it too far. The fact that over the years manufacturing industry evolved from using small electricity units that would suffice to fulfill their requirements to centralized Grids seems appealing to a few. What we tend to forget is that in IT we already tried Grid computing and it failed. Moreover the analogy is fictitious because no one ever wrote a book with a title “Does Electricity Matter” and there was never been a debate on utility of electricity. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that with Cloud computing IT companies need to redefine their business models so that they could gain competitive advantage. However by comparing Cloud computing with something as essential as electricity some pundits are arguing that cloud is the only way of survival in the IT industry going forward. I would certainly not buy that as other IT models will continue to flourish. If at all one wants to understand the Cloud computing and its impacts, one would be better of comparing Cloud computing with telecommunication industry.

Telecom industry evolved over time and its manifestation is that instead of making money on the handsets, companies are making profit on data plans today. The competition and advancement in Telco forced the stake holders to redefine the way they did business. Consumer expectation to pay less for a standardized service meant that there would be quick adaption but less profit provided customer expectation is met. It also meant that over a period of time there would be competition resulting in less profit margins. It also meant that client addition and retention would be challenging and would require streamlining of processes. Product offerings and packing that would be audience specific would govern the success of business. Business insight into processes and quickly changing market would be essential to change with the marketing trends. How did companies evolve with these changes to the industry? What happened to companies that didn’t change with the market? What was the impact on the early adoptors? What was the effect of competition on profit margins? I believe that answers to these questions would hold true for cloud computing.

In Pakistan, with a population of around 180 million, cell phones happen to be amongst the most sold commodity but service providers continue to complaint about the lack of profit. On the other hand small companies that sell problem specific solutions to these telecommunication giants tend to make good profits. Similarly the challenges of subscription models and KPIs for customer addition and retention in this model in Telco provide deep insight for the software industry. Think of a user who has a cell phone and uses services such as Hotmail, Google, Facebook, Car rentals, Hotel bookings and travel advisory. This user pays nothing and gets so much from the cloud. Now it’s just a matter of applying the same to industry so that businesses could run on the cloud. Businesses would eventually reach there so we are better off realigning to be part of the change. However bear in mind that profits are going to be marginal unless the processes are defined and services are replicated.