Experience shows that customers coming to the cloud, in spite of most coming for cost reasons, are looking to be able to customize the solution as much as they used to do with on-premises software. Facebook, MyYahoo and other Web 2.0 applications have set end user expectations for some level of control and customization of the User Interface. Building in customization options including basics like themes and skins can help make a Cloud offering more compelling, but it has to be designed carefully. While we want to be smart and offer general customization options, we also want to be very careful about the incremental cost of supporting custom layout and especially custom functionality. It drives up cost, and the cloud being a cost play in the first place, even small increments in cost erode our ability to offer a competitive subscription rate. That's why we have to remain vigilant about cost control in all the choices we make. The cost advantage of cloud offerings stems in large part from multi-tenancy, and the closer each tenant can align with a common design, the more we can drive down cost to offer more attractive subscription rates. It's important to stay in tune with both existing and prospective subscribers here to ensure we strike the right balance between customization and cost control, as also discussed in Cloud Difference #5: Provider controls the Stack. Avoiding customization cost may sound straightforward, but while we have generally focused on improving Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for our on-premises software for years, it is new for most teams to specifically focus on the incremental delivery cost associated with customization. Developing detailed cost metrics around the delivery operations is a new focus in the cloud, requiring new channels of cooperation between Web Delivery Operations, Development, and Finance, especially to put in place cost models that will allow development teams to evaluate and compare the implications of design alternatives, even before the coding work is done.
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