Professional Service Strategies that Win: IT’s New Role in the Cloud

Successful enterprise resource planning (ERP) deployment demands a focused examination of the professional services provided by your organization, and the most efficient infrastructure required to support them. You must provide your most important asset—your people—with effective tools that can be accessed remotely, securely, and immediately. Professional service organizations that understand this will be in a strong position to determine the best cloud-based solution for their needs.

View from the Clouds: An Overview

Think back to the days when the only people in your organization not anchored to a workstation were the ones playing golf with clients. Staff stayed at their desks, never straying from the applications that they required to do their daily work. Word processors, accounting software, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, and anything else used to drive business were used at the safe haven of the desk. It made task management simple. “Where’s the info I need?” “At your desk.”

In those days, application rollout was as predictable as it was arduous. Installs, upgrades, and decommissioning of applications occurred on each and every machine, with rollouts consuming large-scale schedule and resource planning.

Changing the e-mail application that will be used across the entire global organization? Schedule a rollout. Changing the default application suite from a Corel offering to Microsoft? Schedule a rollout. Never mind what organizations had to face when they were looking to implement a new ERP or customer relationship management (CRM) system.

How times change!

The professional services workplace is not what it used to be, and it’s certainly no longer a particular place. With an increasing industry focus on globalization, the workforce has followed suit, resulting in professional service organization (PSO) staff spending less time at their desks and more time in front of their clients.

Given all this wonderful freedom to work in an office, airport lounge, or coffee shop, how do you ensure that your organization’s information remains accessible and secure? Regardless of whether your employees are in the home office in New York, or client-side in Nice, they should be able to easily access the information they require—while you ensure that this information remains locked out from your competition.

This is especially true in the case of a cloud-based ERP system, where centralized information is potentially accessible to all. Staff need a guarantee that their sales contracts, service-level agreements, and all other confidential and proprietary information are not only inaccessible to competitors, but also to their clients, or even colleagues.

Other basic service requirements lead to similarly important considerations for PSOs:

Connectivity
Whether booting up a work station in the home office, or logging onto the company portal from a coffee shop, your staff need to be able to securely connect to the applications and information that are stored in the cloud.

Accessibility
Why should you lose sleep if employees decide to burn the midnight oil? Round-the-clock access should not necessarily mean round-the-clock support. Accessibility needs to be a given, in order to allow PSOs to make real-time decisions regardless of their dispersed teams’ locations or time zones.

Continuity
Just because your staff’s connection service may be interrupted, this doesn’t mean their customer service has to be. A cloud strategy can serve your strategic IT plan, ensuring that your customers have continuous access to information.

Collaboration
As staff become further and further removed from a centralized location, effective feedback and collaboration become more important. Cloud-based collaboration tools delivered by centralized wikis, dashboards, and portals are as necessary as access to a laptop.
 

Everything seems easier when all your staff are in the same building at 9 and out by 5. But what happens at your Boston office when your staff are getting in for 9 A.M.… in Tokyo? The very nature of the PSO business model makes a cloud infrastructure ideal for addressing key service needs.

In fact, the move to a cloud-based infrastructure where mission-critical ERP and enterprise applications are ubiquitous responds to the needs of client and service provider alike. Clients feel more secure in knowing that their service provider is working at their premises, providing them with instantaneous and accurate information about their project. With cloud-based applications, PSOs can make real-time decisions anytime and anywhere by providing a centralized source of information to their dispersed project teams.

A user’s ability to not only work remotely but also without interruption allows PSOs to deliver better-quality service by leveraging the collaborative tools at their disposal. As such, IT departments are in a strong position to leverage the benefits of cloud technology to provide increased information visibility and allow easy information-sharing across projects in a secure environment.

It also becomes the responsibility of IT departments to manage remote access expectations as seamlessly as they would provide access to their staff working in-house. The big question then becomes, “What does this mean for the traditional IT department?” How are you going to be affected by the shift to the cloud?
 

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