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Is cloud the only way?

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Recently I was talking with my wife, who works in the veterinary medicine field, about the cloud. This conversation started because her company uses a piece of software about once a month to help price items while maintaining a margin on them. This software had been running for quite some time on their old computer, and it was finally time to upgrade. They wanted to continue using the software to price their inventory.

This software used digital rights management, so it required a separate license file on each computer and a new one for every install. So they contacted the company that made the software looking for a new version, but the owner took this as an opportunity to upsell her to the cloud-based offering. Since my wife knew of my interest in and work related to the cloud, she was at least aware of what the cloud was conceptually. At the end of talking to the software company, she asked me the following, “What can the cloud do for me?”

This got me thinking, so I asked her to tell me what the software vendor was offering. Following is the list of items they used to sell their cloud-based offering.

  • Fixes are rolled out with minimal interruption, and no user action is required.

This is pretty good right? I don’t think I can find anything to argue with on this point, and it is pretty common across most cloud-based offerings. The service is kept up to date for you and is part of what you pay for.

  • Your data will be backed up for you.

Yeah, another plus, but nothing to out of the ordinary from other cloud offerings. If they did not do this I would really think twice about going with them.

  • It is provided at a flat monthly fee.

At first glance this could be a good thing, but in reality it depends on the fee and the actual usage by the user.

Then I discussed with my wife how her company was using the software currently. I got an understanding of their usage, which was one to two hours per month. Given that the monthly fee would soon eclipse the price they paid for the standalone product it did not seem an easy match. And really, paying the up-front fee would be better as they were really only using the basics of the product. Additionally they have their own backup strategy, so that was not a selling point either. To the first point, the fixes would be nice, but in reality they never ran into a problem so this too was not a high selling point.

Armed with this information my wife went back to the owner and said, “Thanks, but no thanks. We would like to keep using the product we already paid for.” The owner proceeded to try the sales pitch for his cloud service, and basically his argument boiled down to “It is in the cloud so it must be better.”

I applaud the company for going to the cloud, but something about this struck me as missing the point. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m a firm believer in the cloud and the advantages of what it can offer, but the tactic that was being used here just seemed off. I’ve had trouble putting my thoughts together but whenever I’ve heard this argument, I’ve known that I wanted to talk about it eventually.

My first thought was that it seemed like the software vendor was pushing this because the cloud is jazzy—it’s now, it’s awesome, so you must want it. The seller seemed to not really be hitting on why and did not really understand the cloud so much as someone had told him he needed to be on it. This I think is a big learning point that all of us who focus on cloud should take. When selling the services in the cloud remember to help the customers understand the why, not just throw around words. I know you are excited about the cloud and realize it is a game changer, but not everyone does.

My second thought was that I never heard the seller take the time to understand the issue that needed to be fixed for this particular customer. Again this is something everyone focusing on the cloud needs to understand, from knowing what service level agreements (SLAs) will meet the customer’s needs to what services they actually need to fulfill their project requirements. If all we tell the customer is what they need, we often end up with a non-repeat customer. The offering is not a one-size-fits-all; rather flexibility is the hallmark of the cloud, allowing on-demand processing and as-needed capacity. Let’s not lose sight of that flexibility when putting together the project for the customer, and let’s make sure we fulfill and surpass their needs so that we have a continuing, pleased customer.

The cloud is not the only solution, but it can be a great solution for many situations. Listen to the customer to help them find the way of the cloud.

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