Professional Service Strategies that Win: Executive View of the Cloud

This report focuses on how cloud infrastructures are being used by sales and marketing, finance, and operations in professional service organizations (PSOs). It outlines the benefits of using a cloud infrastructure to manage enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other enterprise systems. With the right solutions in place, globally dispersed project teams have unlimited accessibility to secure and reliable information.

View from the Cloud: An Overview

For professional services organizations (PSOs) around the globe, the service landscape is changing, with localization becoming a mandatory requirement for success. So much so, that in some cases “corporate headquarters” is simply “that place you send packages to.” More and more PSOs are relying on functionally rich mobile technologies, virtual operations, work-from-home staffing models, and remote outsourcing of work.

At the center of this shift is the notion of cloud computing, which allows for a collaborative platform that unifies disparate teams and decentralized information under a single umbrella. There are varying definitions of cloud computing, but cloud computing in its most basic form is a means to leverage the Internet as a standardized technology platform linking and sharing Web-based solutions, platforms, and infrastructures across multiple environments.

Clients as well as PSOs have welcomed the shift to cloud computing. No more waiting by fax machines or traveling to off-site meetings for information: customers now demand high-quality delivery of service, rapid response times, and real-time access to project information to track costs, issues, and progress.

This report focuses on how cloud infrastructures are being used by sales and marketing, finance, and operations in PSOs, for both internal and external stakeholders. It will also outline the benefits of using a cloud infrastructure to manage enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other enterprise systems.

With these enterprise solutions in place, and with a fully supported and operational cloud infrastructure, globally dispersed project teams have unlimited accessibility to information—and the knowledge that their information is as secure and reliable as if it were locked in a desk at the head office.

It’s All About Accessibility

Demands have increased on project teams to provide more immediate and meaningful contact with customers and information. This means that project teams are moving away from the concept of the traditional office, and working either on-site at customer locations or on the road. In both cases, connectivity to accurate and collaborative project information is still critical.

Immediate access to the customer equates to high-quality delivery of professional services. More and more PSOs are entrusting their work to low-cost knowledge workers and independent contractors in a dropped-cost work environment supported and connected by e-mail, Web applications, and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) technologies. What’s common to all these services? Accessibility through cloud infrastructures.

PSOs have become more and more reliant on cost-efficient means to deliver solutions, and are decreasing staffing and administrative costs by outsourcing and providing work-from-home capability for staff. But it has also become increasingly important for PSOs to provide all their project teams with the ability to communicate and collaborate in a secure environment with internal stakeholders and customers. Organizations that fail to do so will fail to deliver quality services, and will suffer the consequences of unsatisfied clients and lost opportunities for future business.

PSO customers do not care how their services are delivered, but they do need them to meet expectations and to be delivered in a timely manner. With team members spread across the globe, ensuring that solutions are delivered properly, on time, and with fully documented support processes is as critical as the services themselves. Hence, the need for your team to remain connected is the single-most important requirement for maintaining quality of service in this fragmented environment.

For these reasons, many PSOs have come to embrace the notion of cloud infrastructures, and are reaping the following benefits:

  • Finance can provide budget information to project team leaders by easily sharing secure documents over the Web.
  • Project team members can collaborate on customer requirements by connecting remotely to a corporate wiki.
  • Support team members can access project configuration information remotely.

Quicker, Cheaper, Better

People are becoming more and more reliant on Internet-based technology for product delivery. Be it an application downloaded to an iPhone, or an order for the latest screen-capture software at the office, there is virtually no delay between remote product purchase and product delivery.

Average consumers have become used to the notion of instantaneous access and delivery, and have thus altered their perception of customer service. For PSOs to build and grow customer loyalty, their services must be delivered quickly and cheaply, and must also be of higher quality than ever before. Using cloud technology, today’s consumers can purchase applications, games, music, and movies for their mobile devices without ever having a human in front of them to ask, “How are you today?”

PSO customers are no different from these typical everyday consumers. The trend toward immediate personal satisfaction is commonplace, and customers are demanding higher standards for all services. Where months were once acceptable units of measure for lengthy projects, now it is common to measure projects in weeks. Instantaneous access to product and project support is no longer a nice-to-have; it is expected. For many PSO customers, ERP systems residing in the cloud have become a primary source of information—a collaborative platform to communicate with service providers and access real-time information about the progress of their projects, via online dashboards and customer portals.

Consequently, cloud technology has impacted PSO customer expectations by promising rapid delivery, high-quality solutions, and immediate support. How do PSOs respond to these expectations? By using the very same cloud technology that helped create these expectations in the first place.

Enterprise applications delivered on cloud-based architectures give PSOs the opportunity to meet the new demand of today’s PSO customer by offering the following benefits:

  • Cloud-based communication technology is cost-effective and quickly accessible. For example, online dashboards, Web-enabled e-mail, and VoIP help ensure that project management is on course for timely delivery.
  • A central repository of tools and project information, provided by cloud-based ERP and other enterprise systems, ensures that all services are delivered by the PSO with the highest quality possible.
  • Support teams can leverage strategic information repositories anywhere at any time from these cloud-based enterprise systems, based on lessons learned by the project teams responsible for project delivery. These repositories will provide uniform and consistent support to the entire organization and ensure that all information is accessed from a single source of truth.

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